People aged under 40 are now to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, following updated guidance.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is recommending that people in this age group are offered a different vaccine as there is an “extremely small risk” of people suffering blood clots after having the jab.
The JCVI said that while the balance of benefit and risk of having the AstraZeneca jab is very favourable among older age groups, it is more finely balanced for younger people, who typically have less severe coronavirus symptoms.
As such, this means that people under 40 should instead be offered either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines when they are called.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also expected to be approved by The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) shortly, with the review said to be at an advanced stage.
However, this vaccine has also been linked to a small risk of blood clots, and England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said it was not thought it would be rolled out in time to complete the UK’s adult vaccine population.
Can I refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine?
The JCVI has advised that another vaccine should be offered to under-40s without underlying health conditions where an alternative is available, and as long as it does not cause any substantial delays to the vaccination programme.
Urging people to accept vaccines, it has warned that reductions in uptake or speed of jab deployment will increase the size of any third wave of infection in the UK.
For this reason, it believes that any coronavirus vaccine would be better than no vaccine at all, even for those under the age of 40.
However, Pfizer or Moderna should be offered first and foremost to people in this age group when they are called for their vaccine.
Anyone who is over the age of 40 and does not wish to have the AstraZeneca vaccine is advised to discuss the risks with their GP, but the NHS has stressed people cannot request which vaccine they are given.
As such, the over 40s will not be able to refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are offered it in favour of another one.
A spokeswoman for NHS England told NationalWorld: “You should only be offered AstraZeneca if you are over the age of 40.
“Anyone in this age group who does not wish to have this vaccine will have to speak to their GP or vaccinator and discuss the reasons why you do not want to have it.
“It is not an NHS policy that we let people pick their vaccine. Only those under the age of 40 will be offered a different vaccine to AstraZeneca.”
What happens if I am offered AstraZeneca and I am under 40?
The NHS has said that people under the age of 40 will only be invited for their Covid vaccine at a site where other vaccines are available.
A spokeswoman added: “We offer people all of the vaccines that have been approved for use in the UK. If you are under the age of 40 you will be offered one of the other vaccines instead of AstraZeneca.
“You will only be invited for your vaccine at a site that has the other vaccines available - you won’t have to request a different one at your appointment, as AstraZeneca is not being recommended for under 40s.
“In the case your local GP is not administering the other vaccines, you may be invited to another vaccination centre. This will be at a site that does Pfizer or Moderna and should not be further than 10 miles away.
Asked if someone under 40 who turns up for a vaccine and is offered AstraZeneca can re-book to get a different one, England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said that is “a bit of a theoretical argument” and he did not expect that to happen.
However, James Trembath, 37, from Selby, said he was invited to book his vaccine after the change in guidance for the under 40s, and on arriving at a mass vaccination centre was informed the site was only administering the AstraZeneca jab that day.
He told NationalWorld: “I turned up fully expecting to just be given one of the others, but when I got there it totally threw me as they said basically it's the AstraZeneca vaccine today.
“I was told I could have one of the others, but not on that day so I’d need to defer.
“My vaccine centre also does the Pfizer which is why I was confused.
“The staff were really helpful, but it should definitely have been made more clear to me pre-appointment.”
Mr Trembath has since had a phone call from his GP who said they tried to cancel the appointment but it didn’t come through in time.
People under the age of 40 are not only being invited on days when other Covid vaccines are being administered.
In the event you are invited for your vaccine and find only AstraZeneca is being administered, you should speak to the surgery and arrange to rearrange your appointment.
The coronavirus vaccine booking system will also be amended “in the coming days” after pregnant women were unable to access their preferred jabs.
NHS health providers, including vaccine sites, pharmacies, GP surgeries and hospital trusts, have been told that the system will be changed to allow pregnant women to book specific vaccines.
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