(London) With the decision to avoid AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine for those under 30, the vaccination campaign so far without pitfalls in the UK is experiencing a first setback, as it is about to be enlarged to support the reopening of the country.
Number of contaminations in free fall, such as hospitalizations and deaths (less than 50 per day): the most bereaved country in Europe with nearly 127,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has seen its health situation improve sharply in the over the weeks of confinements and the progress of the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus, one of the most advanced in the world.
Central part of this immunization operation, the vaccine from the Swedish-British laboratory AstraZeneca, developed with the University of Oxford, had hitherto been the unwavering pride of the British government.
The latter, who helped finance it, has always firmly defended, in the face of criticism, this vaccine designed on its territory and in the heart of a standoff with the European Union due to less supplies than expected on the continent. .
Doubt eventually prevailed, after rare but serious cases of blood clots were reported among those vaccinated.
Britain’s drug regulator MHRA said it had seen 19 people killed after receiving the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine, out of a total of 79 identified blood clots and more than 20 million doses given since early December.
These cases concern 51 women and 28 men aged 18 to 79, said June Raine, the director of the MHRA, ensuring that the benefits remained greater than the risks for « the vast majority » of the population.
As a result, the scientific committee overseeing the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, the JCVI, on Wednesday recommended limiting vaccine use to those over 30 years of age when possible.
« Adults between the ages of 18 and 29, who do not have a co-morbid condition that puts them at a higher risk of a severe form of COVID-19 disease, should be offered another vaccine. […] when such an alternative solution is available, ”said Prof. Wei Shen Lim, JCVI.
The other vaccines currently deployed are Pfizer / BioNTech and, since Wednesday, that of the American laboratory Moderna, whose first doses were administered in Wales.
« Safe » and « efficient »
Affirming that the government would follow this recommendation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had succeeded in eclipsing with the success of the vaccination a management considered chaotic of the pandemic, wanted to be reassuring.
« This vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives and the vast majority of people should continue to take it when it is offered to them », in order to accompany a « cautious return to normality », reacted the leader curator on Twitter.
This change of course in the immunization campaign, already slowed this month by supply delays, is a setback as the UK almost finished injecting a first dose to every 32 million more age 50 and is preparing to extend it to the lower age groups. This progress has allowed the government to give the green light to a major step in deconfinement next Monday in England, with the reopening of non-essential shops, as well as hairdressing salons and restaurant terraces.
In the longer term, the government hopes to almost completely reopen the economy on June 21. But to do so, he wants to maintain border restrictions, causing impatience among Britons accustomed to going en masse to the beaches of the Mediterranean in summer. And plans to introduce a highly controversial health passport for mass gatherings.
Health Minister Matt Hancock said Wednesday’s decision in no way called into question the authorities’ goal of having administered a first dose to all adults by the end of July.
This new direction could at most cause « slight delays » or lead to longer trips to be vaccinated, according to Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England.
According to a study by Public Health England (PHE) cited by the government, vaccination prevented 6,100 deaths among people over 70 during the first three months of the campaign, until the end of February.