In a statement, the Welsh Government has said the Oxford AstraZeneca (OAZ) vaccine remains safe and effective and has already saved thousands of lives.
It comes as the MHRA, the UK’s medicine regulator says the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people, but they advise careful consideration be given to people who are at higher risk of specific types of blood clots because of their medical condition.
The MHRA’s scientific review of UK reports of blood clots concluded that the evidence of a link with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca is stronger but more work is still needed. It is not recommending age restrictions in COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccine use.
The Welsh Government’s statement said: “The Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales are working with other agencies to continually monitor vaccine safety and will keep this issue under close review. In Wales, people’s safety will always come first and we will only use vaccines where it is safe to do so and the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
“Vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic and provide strong protection against COVID-19 – it is important that when people are called forward, they should get their jab. To date, over 1.5 million people in Wales have received a first dose of vaccine and a further 475,000 have also received a second dose.
“Everybody who has already had a first dose of the OAZ vaccine should be reassured that they can receive a second dose of the same brand, irrespective of age.”
Dr Richard Evans, Executive Medical Director, Swansea Bay University Health Board said: “The UK’s Medicine Healthcare and Regulatory Products Agency (MHRA) has put out new advice following the possibility of a very rare blood clot being linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
“According to the MHRA, the risk of this side effect is very small – about four in one million – to those who receive the vaccine.
“More than 20 million doses of this vaccine have been given in the UK so far, with 79 reported cases of these unusual blood clots – which is an occurrence of 0.000395%.
“While you may be concerned with what you are hearing in the news, the MHRA has made clear that the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks, and this type of “course correction” is common in vaccination schemes.
“But patient and product information will be updated to make sure everyone is aware of this very rare side effect along with other potential side effects.
“Meanwhile, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said the developments were out of ‘utmost caution’ and has advised:- Anyone aged 18-29 should be offered an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.- Pregnant women should discuss having this vaccine with their health care professional.- Anyone who has already received a first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca should have their 2nd dose as planned.
“The Committee of Human Medicines has also said that people with a history of blood disorders that increase the risk of blood clotting should only have the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab where benefits outweigh potential risks.“Covid-19 vaccination has proven to be highly effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalisation. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has already saved thousands of lives.
“The Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and NHS Wales are working with other agencies to continually monitor vaccine safety, and are keeping this issue under close review. In Wales, people’s safety will always come first and we will only use vaccines where it is safe to do so and the benefits continue to outweigh the risks.
“Vaccines are the best way out of this pandemic and provide strong protection against COVID-19 – it is important that when people are called forward, they should get their jab.
“We’ll keep you updated on any changes as we update our plans in Swansea Bay to reflect this new advice – but at this stage we don’t see any delay to the rollout of our vaccine programme.”