Boris Johnson has announced he is to have the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine as ministers seek to reassure the public of its safety after its use was paused by some European nations following concerns over blood clots.
The prime minister, who was hospitalised with Covid-19 last year, told MPs he had “finally” received the news that he was to be inoculated “very shortly”.
The health secretary Matt Hancock has stressed that the MHRA, the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency have all said that they believe the vaccine is safe, as he urged the public to take the jab.
He said: “We keep the effects of these vaccines under review all the time and we know that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is saving lives in the UK right now so if you get the call, get the jab.”
Asked if there had been evidence that people in the UK were declining the vaccine after it was suspended in a number of European countries, Mr Hancock said that there were still “huge numbers of people (being) vaccinated every day”.
The “enthusiasm for getting the vaccine is incredibly strong,” he added.
Experts in the UK have criticised the decision to halt rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, warning it will lead to unnecessary deaths.
Prof Brown, a consultant in respiratory medicine and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), also expressed concern about the knock on effects on this side of the channel.
“There is the concern that what’s happening in Europe might make people in the UK less confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, unnecessarily so, because it’s perfectly safe,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme.
The vaccine has been given to around 11 million people in the UK “and there’s been no serious side-effects” reported in this country, he added.
“It is confusing to understand why so many countries have decided to stop using the vaccine.”
He added that many of those countries were currently experiencing a third wave of the virus.
“By not using the vaccine, this is going to directly lead to an increased incidence of Covid infection and people will die as a consequence of these decisions.”
Sweden and Latvia have followed major European states including Germany, France, Italy and Spain, to announce a temporary suspension of the jabs.
It follows a small number of reports of bleeding, blood clots and low blood platelet counts.
minister Roberto Speranza said he and other European countries were hopeful the European Medicines Agency, which is due to deliver its verdict on Thursday, will provide the “the clarifications and reassurances necessary” for the use of the vaccines to re-start.
Meanwhile, French prime minister Jean Castex has said he is willing to take the AstraZeneca jab.
A former chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also defended the vaccine, saying linking it to blood clots was a “big jump”.
Sir Kent Woods said: “We mustn’t forget that in the European Union the latest figures show that there was something like 2,000 deaths a day occurring from Covid.
“This is a very serious pandemic.”