The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has recommended limiting the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to the over-60s, due to reports of a number of blood clots in younger patients.
The group has told the Department of Health that those under 60 who have received one dose of the vaccine and suffer with high-risk conditions should receive their second dose after 12 weeks as scheduled.
However, Niac recommended that those who are under 60 without high-risk medical conditions have their second dose extended to 16 weeks to allow for further investigation into the matter.
Commenting on the new advice, NIAC Chair, Prof Karina Butler said: “All the authorised COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca and the newly approved Janssen, are highly effective in preventing hospitalisation and severe COVID-19 disease. Vaccination with Vaxzevria COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective and substantially reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 disease across all age groups.
“NIAC realises the need to balance the significant benefits of a national vaccination programme with the very rare risk of these reported events. While this is an extremely rare condition, consideration must be given to the fact that it has a very high risk of death or severe outcome. As the risk/benefits of Vaxzevria COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine may vary by age and as alternative COVID-19 vaccines are available NIAC has revised the recommendations for use of this vaccine.
“In developing these recommendations, NIAC is informed by the available scientific evidence and the risk/benefits of the vaccines. New evidence will be reviewed once available and any further required recommendations will be notified to the Department of Health.
“We strongly encourage everyone to accept the COVID-19 vaccine they are offered. A high uptake of vaccine in every age group is needed if COVID-19 is to be controlled, so that public health restrictions may be safely removed” Prof Butler said.