Prof Finn told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The contraceptive pill is a medicine that women take not because they are ill but as a choice in terms of how they are living their lives.
“The risks of thrombosis that come with taking the pill are very much higher than the risks that we were just seeing on those slides [about very rare blood clots from the AZ vaccine].
“Every year, a woman runs a risk approaching one in a hundred of getting some kind of thrombosis and some of those thromboses are severe and even life threatening as well.
“So, that’s a risk that many women take, and accept quite willingly all the time, and it’s a far greater risk in fact than the risk we are seeing with this important vaccine that has the potential to get us all out of this dilemma [the epidemic].”
In an article in the Lancet last year, Scottish GP Margaret McCartney wrote that the estimated incidence of a blood clot with the combined oral contraceptive pill is about five per 10,000 women per year — a risk of one in 2,000, or 0.05 per cent.
According to Sky News, the National Blood Clot Alliance in the US estimates that one in 1,000 women per year who are taking birth control pills will develop a clot, a risk a 0.1 per cent.
There have been 79 reported UK cases of clotting in people after receiving the AstraZeneca jab, with 19 deaths. Some 20 millions doses of the vaccine have been administered, giving a risk of about four in one million of developing a blood clot, and one in a million of dying.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the benefits still outweigh the risks overall but while it has not concluded that the vaccine causes rare brain clots, it said the link is getting firmer.
“It was not that we were convinced that they should not have it, it was more that we felt it would be better for them to have an alternative vaccine if one was available,” explained Prof Finn, head of the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre.
“Under conditions of very low circulation of Covid it begins to become a bit border line, the benefit risks, if the very rare risks of blood clots that we have seen are real and primarily because once you get below the age of 30 when you get Covid, your risks of getting into hospital and dying of Covid are very much lower than those in people over 30 and certainly people as you get up into middle age and old age.”
With restrictions being eased and Covid-19 cases continuing to fall, he also stressed that the battle against the disease was not yet won.
“I’m afraid we have not got to the end of Covid, people might be feeling that things are over and done with but we have still got half of the population yet to protect,” he emphasised.
“So, there is a very real risk of another major wave of Covid later this year if we can’t get these immunisations finished or if there is a different variant of virus that comes through.”