The rollout of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine should be paused for younger people until regulators have issued guidance on its safety, a government adviser has claimed.
Dr Maggie Wearmouth, who sits on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation [JCVI] said slowing the rollout may be needed to maintain public trust and confidence.
It comes after Oxford University put a trial of its Covid vaccine for kids and teens on hold amid concerns over blood clotting.
Researchers say they are awaiting further information about the side-effect of the jab, developed alongside drug company AstraZeneca.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is investigating a potential link between the jab and a rare form of blood clot.
Speaking to The Telegraph Dr Wearmouth said the JCVI was “eager to move” the vaccine programme on but added: “We have to show that perhaps slowing things down, not rolling out phase two at this stage… until we’re absolutely certain.
“The issue is about safety and public confidence. We don’t want to cover anything up that we feel that the public should be knowing. We’re not here to blindly follow targets or due dates. We will do what is necessary for the British public.”
She said the JCVI had written its advice for the second phase of the vaccination rollout, included all those aged 18-49.
Dr Wearmouth added the group would rather give ‘slow, steady, prudent advice’ and would to see what the MHRA says.
The JCVI had been expected to give its final recommendation on how to roll out the jab to under-50s this week or early next week.
Professor Finn, a member of the JCVI who also leads the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre, stressed the trial of the Oxford jab on children was paused as a “precautionary measure” rather than because problems had been witnessed.
Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Newsnight: “We certainly don’t want to be taking any risks given their almost negligible risk of illness from the disease.
“So while there is uncertainty around this and until we get clearer information from the regulator we really felt that the right thing to do is to pause the study and take stock.
“It’s really just a precautionary measure rather than because we’ve seen any problems.”
Thirty cases of rare blood clot events out of 18.1 million doses of the jab administered up to and including March 24 have been identified.
There have been seven deaths among the 30 cases.
Germany has since stopped giving the Oxford jab to people aged under 60, while Canada has done the same for everyone aged under 55.
It comes as a JCVI member said emerging evidence on rare blood clots among adults raises the possibility of a causal link with the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
Speaking in a personal capacity, Professor Adam Finn told BBC Newsnight: “It’s clear that everyone is taking these cases enormously seriously, we do need to get to the bottom of this.
“We are walking a tightrope here between the need for speed but also the need for clarity and scientific certainty about what’s going on and of course the public wants to know, so very important issues that need to be addressed urgently.”
Boris Johnson and ministers have sought to reassure Brits and foreign governments about the vaccine, insisting it is safe.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said earlier that the MHRA looked “very closely” at reports of adverse reactions to the vaccines.
Meanwhile, a third jab will start going into patient’s arms from Wednesday with Wales administering the Moderna jab for the first time.
More than 31 million people in all have received a first dose of a Covid vaccine, while nearly 5.5 million have had their second jab.