UK changes AstraZeneca vaccine advice amid blood clot concerns

Oscar Williams-Grut breaks down the latest developments on the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK and Europe.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, over in Europe and as well as here in the US, we continue to watch the AstraZeneca vaccine and the back and forth over its safety. There are some new developments now about the indications for this vaccine, particularly for certain age groups. Our Oscar Williams-Grut has been following this situation. And Oscar, you know, as we were-- we were talking about this issue in our meeting this morning. And I guess, the problem is bigger than AstraZeneca, that if it reinforces vaccine hesitancy among some groups, then really, it's a bigger problem.

OSCAR WILLIAMS-GRUT: Julie, that's right. And I think regulators here in the UK and Europe were both very, very keen to stress that this vaccine is still safe, and people should get it if they are called up to get their vaccine. Now what happened yesterday afternoon was we had press conferences from both the Medicines and Healthcare Product Regulatory Agency here in the UK and the European Medical Authority, both of those agencies essentially saying the same thing, which was that they have been forced to conclude that there is a possible link between very rare blood clotting events and the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Now, the UK regulators stressed that this was extremely rare and unlikely to occur. They found only around four instances for every one million people. But the evidence suggests, as you say, that it could be more prevalent in certain groups. They said there was a slightly higher incidence reported in the younger adult age group. Meanwhile, the EMA said that there were more cases reported for women under 60 years old.

Now the UK regulators here, the UK government has decided in light of these new findings, that they will give under 30-year-olds different vaccines to the AstraZeneca one where possible. Now that doesn't mean that they are stopping administering AstraZeneca for under 30s, but they will aim to use the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that they have more than enough supply of Pfizer and Moderna to administer it to all under 30s who have yet to receive their jabs.

EU leaders, meanwhile, are meeting today to decide what, if any, action to take in light of these new findings. So we are likely to hear more from them later today. Meanwhile, AstraZeneca, they have said that-- they have stressed that the regulators have both found that these are extremely rare instances. And both regulators have concluded that the benefits of this vaccine still outweigh the risks. And it's safe to administer and should continue to be administered.

So AstraZeneca trying to put as positive a spin on this as possible. They've said they're working with regulators to try and find out if there is a causal link, and if so, what is causing it. And they're also changing the labeling so that all healthcare professionals will be aware of these risks when they receive the drug. The share price of AstraZeneca has been under pressure all week here in London, actually trading up about 2% today. Perhaps some relief that the findings have not been as bad as they possibly could have. But certainly, this story will be one that we'll be watching, particularly in light of what EU officials say later today. So I'll bring you more as we get it.

JULIE HYMAN: We look forward to those updates. Thanks so much, Oscar. Appreciate it.