Coronavirus in the UK: Boris Johnson to receive first dose of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine as he urges UK public to do same
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to receive his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Friday as a host of European countries announced they would return to using the jab.
A slew of countries, including Germany and France, reversed their decision to temporarily pause its use over blood clot concerns after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) called the vaccine “safe and effective”.
France, Italy and Germany, along with Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania, have confirmed they will resume rollout of the Oxford shot on Friday, while Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands said they will follow suit next week, although Spain said it could exclude certain groups.
However Norway, Sweden and Denmark have said they will continue their hold on the AstraZeneca jab, despite the EMA’s ruling.
All three countries said the pause would continue while they conduct their own independent reviews of the jab’s safety.
“We want to thoroughly review the situation before we make a conclusion,” said Geir Bukholm, director of the Division of Infection Control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
“This will take some time, and we will provide an update at the end of next week.”
Like Mr Johnson, French prime minister Jean Castex is expected to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday.
Mr Johnson, aged 56, told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday: “The Oxford jab is safe and the Pfizer jab is safe.
“The thing that isn’t safe is catching Covid, which is why it is so important that we all get our jabs as soon as our turn comes.
“The way to ensure this (lockdown easing) happens is to get that jab when your turn comes, so let’s get the jab done,” Mr Johnson said.
His comments came after the EMA confirmed the vaccine is “safe and effective” and its benefits outweigh any risks.
However, the regulator said it “cannot rule out definitively” a link between “a small number of cases of rare and unusual but very serious blood clotting disorders” and the vaccine, with investigations ongoing.
Emer Cooke, EMA executive director, said this situation was not unexpected, adding that “when you vaccinate millions of people” such reports of rare events will occur.
But the EMA has concluded there is no overall increase in the risk of blood clots with the vaccine, and in fact it is likely to reduce the overall risk of clots.
Ms Cooke said: “This is a safe and effective vaccine. Its benefits in protecting people from Covid-19, with the associated risks of death and hospitalisation, outweigh the possible risks.”
In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) also concluded that any link between the jab and clots is unproven, and the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any risks.
Five men in the UK have suffered an “extremely rare” blood clot problem in the brain after having the AstraZeneca vaccine, with one of them subsequently dying, though no causal link with the jab has been established.
The MHRA said it was looking at the reports but stressed the events were “extremely rare” and there was a possibility they could have been caused by Covid itself.