The Joint Committee for Vaccinations and Immunisations has updated its guidance for the use of the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. It has recommended that people under 40 are offered an alternative vaccination where available and where this will not cause delays to people having the vaccine.
This follows ongoing reviews by the independent regulator, the MHRA, of a very small number of people in the UK who have developed a rare blood-clotting condition since having the Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Both the JCVI and MHRA have emphasised that the risk is extremely small – just over 10 people in every million have developed this condition – and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.
However, given current vaccines supplies and that infection rates are increasingly coming under control in the UK, the JCVI has recommended taking this precautionary measure for younger people. This takes into account that this rare condition is seen more often in younger people and that the risks from COVID-19 decrease with age.
The latest guidance is as follows:
- Everyone who has had the AstraZeneca vaccine should still have a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, irrespective of age, unless they suffered any serious side effects after their first vaccination. Having the second dose is very important as it will give you higher and longer lasting protection.
- People over 40 or who have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease should still be offered the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. The benefits in protecting them against the serious consequences of COVID-19 outweigh any risk of this rare condition.
- People aged 18-39 who do not have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease will be offered an alternative COVID-19 vaccine where available. It is important that you have the vaccination as soon as possible to protect you and to reduce the chance of passing on the virus.
- People under 40 can still choose to have the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine if this will mean they can be protected more quickly and they have been made aware of the guidance.
Please see the updated leaflet below that has been produced by Public Health England and the NHS to answer any questions you may have.
Getting an appointment
Currently, anyone in an eligible age group can book a vaccination online at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination. If you are not able to book online you can call 119 free of charge, between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. As the age limit reduces, this will be updated on the booking homepage.
If you would prefer to have your vaccination at the centre run by local GP practices you do not need to do anything – we will contact you when we have appointments available. The invite from the GP practice will often be in the form of a text message.
We know lots of people will be eager to get protected but please do not contact your GP practice for an appointment. People will not be able to make an appointment unless they have been invited and you might stop someone who needs medical help getting through to us.
Getting your second vaccination
People need two doses of the vaccine to make sure they get maximum protection. If you had your first dose at a GP centre, you will be contacted by your practice when it is time for your second dose. This will usually be 11-12 weeks after your first vaccination.
If it is 11 weeks after you received your first vaccination, and you have not yet been invited for your second vaccination, please contact your GP practice who will arrange an appointment for you.