COVID-19: Under-30s offered alternative to Oxford-AstraZeneca jab

Dr Latifa Haque
April 16, 2021

By the end of March, 79 people out of 20 million suffered blood clots following their first dose of the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine. 19 of these people had died. This means there is a four in a million risk of developing a blood clot, and one in a million chance of dying from it. 3 of the deaths were from people aged under 30 years old. Following this, a handful of European countries paused or limited the administration of AZ vaccine.

Regulatory bodies such as the MHRA and EMA have concluded that the benefits of taking the vaccine still outweigh the risk of harm from the vaccine and from Covid-19 itself. Despite this, people between 18-29 will be offered alternative vaccines if they have not received the AZ first dose already.

Food for Thought

How has this changed people's trust in the vaccine?

As various countries have paused or limited the usage of the AZ vaccine, people are less likely to have confidence in it. The reputation of the vaccine has plummeted, despite that a) it is still very effective, and b) the risk of blood clots is extremely small. This lack of confidence in AZ can deepen the distrust with other Covid-19 vaccinations, which can be a big problem in helping achieve herd immunity. Do you think people have a reason to be distrusting? How do you think this could have been avoided?

Who do the benefits outweigh the risk for?

Have a look at the following graph.

This graph shows how the benefits of the AZ vaccine outweigh the risks for every age group. It shows that the number of people per 100,000 being saved from ICU admission due to the vaccine is higher than the risk of suffering harm from the AZ vaccine. However, is the risk-benefit the same for all ages? Younger people are less likely to be admitted to ICU from Covid-19 in the first place, yet they are the group at greatest risk of harm from the AZ vaccine. Is it still worthwhile for them to take?

Practice Interview QUestions
  1. Why is it important for people to be aware of all the risks associated with any vaccinations or drugs before they take them? Which ethical principles are important to consider?
  2. Describe what the graph above is showing, and explain whether you think young people should be encouraged to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

Extra Reading (optional)