BRITAIN’S pathway out of lockdown could come under threat if health chiefs suspend use of the AstraZeneca jab in young people over clotting fears today.
The vaccine is set to account for up to three quarters of all doses delivered to the UK between now and the first week of June, according to leaked documents.
Regulators are reviewing the use of the shot in under 30s amid concerns it could be linked to a rare form of blood clot.
This morning business minister Paul Scully insisted the UK is still “on target” to offer a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.
But the suspension of the AZ jab, which is the workhorse of the rollout, could throw that timetable into jeopardy.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted his roadmap out of lockdown is dependent on the vaccination programme proceeding as planned.
And experts also warned regulators face a “tricky balancing act” between maintaining public confidence in jabs and the threat of a Covid third wave.
Professor Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI advisory group, admitted pausing the shot could mean restrictions have to last longer.
He said: “We do need to keep the programme going if the plan to open things up and allow things to get back to normal is to proceed without another wave of the pandemic coming through.
“So it’s quite a tricky balancing act here, getting the balance right, getting vaccines coming through, getting the risk-benefit right for people coming forward.”
Back in January details of the UK’s expected delivery schedule were leaked on the Scottish government website.
The timetable, which could have changed since then, showed Britain was set to receive 29.4 million doses of AZ between now and the start of June.
In contrast, Pfizer is due to deliver 8.5 million shots over the same period, while Moderna will provide just 1 million.
The PM has repeatedly insisted that he’s committed to sticking to his roadmap “like glue” and sees no reason to deviate from it.
This week he said the UK’s pandemic numbers on cases, hospitalisations, and deaths showed we’re on course to leave lockdown as planned.
And yesterday he declared: “It’s important we take each step on the road map as it comes and continue to roll out the vaccine, build up our defences, build up the natural resistance of our whole population in the way that we are and then continue to look at the data in the intervals that we’ve set out.
“So we are going to see exactly what happens from the April 12 to May 17 openings and thereafter through to June 21.
“At the moment, as I look at all the data, I can’t see any reason for us to deviate from the road map that we have set out, we are sticking to it.”
This morning Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also urged Brits to come forward and have the “perfectly safe” vaccine.
He said that he himself has received the AZ shot and experienced “no side effects”.
And he added: “I would encourage everybody who’s invited to come forward to have a vaccine to come forward and have it.
“The most important thing coming out of this pandemic is we get just as many people vaccinated as possible.
“It is the light at the end of the tunnel, in the end it is the only way through this.”
Britain’s medical regulator, the MHRA, is considering whether to pause use of the shot in under 30s over the clotting fears.
A number of European countries including France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands have already stopped giving it to younger people.
And today South Korea also announced a pause on the jab’s use in under 60s.
The stoppage is due to concerns over rare blood clots which have occurred in some recipients – in particular young women.
Oxford University said late last night that that it has paused a British trial of the vaccine on children.
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It insisted there were “no safety concerns” but said it’s waiting for more information from the medical regulator before restarting the programme.
Both the MHRA and Europe’s regulator, the EMA, are set to issue updated guidance on the use of the vaccine today.
Health ministers from the EU’s 27 countries will also hold a video call to discuss the implications for the bloc’s own snail-paced rollout.