Brits in their thirties could be urged to take an alternative coronavirus jab to AstraZeneca following fears it could be linked to blood clots.
Members of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have said the recommendation may be made before the UK’s vaccine programme is rolled out to the under 40s.
The Government’s independent scientific advisers said a new risk/benefit assessment of the vaccine in different age brackets will be made before the rollout begins.
Figures have revealed that blood clots are most likely to affect those in their 30s after they have had the jab.
There have been 79 cases in the UK and 19 deaths, 13 of which were women according to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
They said the highest number of cases in an age group was 16 for those aged 30 to 39.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the JCVI, said there will be a ‘scrupulous’ examination of the safety data for the younger age bracket adding that any link to blood clots was “very, very rare”.
The scientist added that “everybody should remain confident” in the vaccine programme.
The current medical advice that people under the age of 30 should be offered the Pfizer or Moderna instead of AstraZeneca is expected to remain unchanged.
But Prof Harnden said scientists would be scrutinising the safety data for other age groups which will become “more clear” when the vaccination programme rolls out to Brits in their 30s.
Professor Jeremy Brown, a fellow JCVI member, told The Daily Telegraph: “We’re going to start vaccinating phase two healthy adults, starting with the 40 to 50 year olds, and then we’ll go to the 30 to 40 year olds.
“When we are approaching that point, we’ll need to be absolutely sure at what point in that age cut-off – given the situation we are facing at that time.”
He said he thinks the risk/benefit analysis would be likely to suggest the AstraZeneca jab should be given to people in their thirties.
He said this because if infection rates are high then the chance of severe disease in this age group are around five times higher than people in their twenties.
On Thursday Prof Harnden told the BBC Today programme: “I don’t think our guidelines for the [healthy] under 30s will change, but we will certainly evolve the programme according to the epidemiology that we are seeing at the time.”
The vaccine rollout is currently focused on Brits who are over 50 with a large majority of jabs administered this month being second doses.
The rollout is expected to move to Brits in their forties who are expected to predominately be given AstraZeneca jabs.
Adults aged between 18 and 30 are the last group to be targeted by the programme and are unlikely to receive their jabs until July.
Prof Harnden said he hoped by then the data would be more transparent by then so would curb any hesitation by younger people to have the jab.
He said: “It’s very early stages… and we will look at this in scrupulous detail.
“You have to remember that when you suddenly start looking for cases you find a number, and then that those figures will settle down so we’ll be able to get much more precise estimates of the incident risks of this particular safety signal that we’re seeing.”
The NHS has began cancelling vaccine appointments which have been booked for Brits who are under 30.
Anyone who has had their first AstraZeneca jab will be offered a second dose including those who are in the younger age group and were given the vaccine because of their vulnerability or occupation.
MHRA officials are investigating whether young people had a greater risk of a complication from the vaccine than of dying of Covid-19 itself.
Dr Maithili Sashindranath of the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases said on Thursday that women taking the contraceptive pill may have seven times the risk of developing the rare brain clot seen in a tiny minority of vaccinated people.