Boris Johnson to receive AstraZeneca Covid vaccine

Jane Kirby, PA Health Editor
·6-min read

Boris Johnson has said he is due to have his Covid-19 vaccine shortly and it will “be Oxford/AstraZeneca”.

In a show of support for the jab, which more than a dozen European countries have stopped using, the Prime Minister told MPs: “I think perhaps the best thing I can say about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine programme is that I finally got news that I’m going to have my own jab very shortly, I’m pleased to discover…

“It will certainly be Oxford/AstraZeneca that I will be having.”

His comments came as the number of people to have received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the UK passed 25 million.

Number 10 said Mr Johnson is expected to get his Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine later this week.

It is understood the NHS told the Prime Minister he would receive the AstraZeneca jab because of the public interest surrounding the vaccine.

But it is unclear whether Downing Street had specifically requested it.

Meanwhile, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen suggested exports of coronavirus vaccines could be halted to countries with higher vaccination rates.

In what appeared to be a veiled threat to the UK, she told reporters in Brussels: “We are exporting a lot to countries that are themselves producing vaccines and we think this is an invitation to be open, so that we also see exports from those countries coming back to the European Union.

“The second point that is of importance to us: we will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”

Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses for Europe including the UK are being produced in BioNTech’s German manufacturing sites, as well as in Pfizer’s manufacturing site in Belgium. Part of the Moderna vaccine is set to be finished in Spain.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said the Government urged the EU to “stand by its commitment” not to restrict exports of vaccines.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

The comments came after a leading expert said people across Europe will die from Covid-19 as a direct consequence of the decision to halt rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Professor Jeremy Brown, from the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the move by several European countries to suspend the vaccine over blood clot fears was “not sensible” and “not logical”.

He told Good Morning Britain: “There is the concern that what’s happening in Europe might make people in the UK less confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine, unnecessarily so, because it’s perfectly safe.”

The vaccine has been given to around 11 million people in the UK “and there’s been no serious side effects reported in this country”, he added.

“It is confusing to understand why so many countries have decided to stop using the vaccine.

“Many of those countries are going through a third wave, and by stopping using the vaccine they’re actually literally causing more problems.

“By not using the vaccine, this is going to directly lead to an increased incidence of Covid infection and people will die as a consequence of these decisions.”

Sweden and Latvia have followed countries including Germany, France, Italy and Spain in temporarily suspending AstraZeneca jabs in light of a small number of reports of bleeding, blood clots and low blood platelet counts.

Some of the focus has been on Germany, where officials have received seven reports in total of bleeding and a form of severe cerebral venous thrombosis associated with low platelets.

Of the seven people, three have died, and all were aged between 20 and 50, officials said.

Six of the people had a particular form of cerebral venous thrombosis, called sinus vein thrombosis, and all of these were “younger to middle-aged women”.

Prof Brown said he did not believe clots reported in Germany “will turn out to be linked to the vaccine anyway – this is an incredibly rare event”.

He added: “We don’t know how often it occurs, even if people have not been vaccinated.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“It’s a complication of actually having acute Covid infection itself, and therefore it’s very, very rare and unlikely to be linked to the vaccine.

“Using that as a reason to stop using the vaccine when we know the vaccine prevents 85 to 90% admission to hospital is not sensible.”

He later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the concerns raised in Germany were “overblown”.

He added: “I don’t see it being likely to be linked to the vaccine either mechanistically, or the numbers involved are so low it seems very unlikely that there’s much increased risk, if any increased risk, with the vaccine at all.”

He continued: “I don’t understand why this is happening.

“To me it doesn’t seem at all logical, because we do know the vaccine works… It is an incredibly effective vaccine, and by rolling out the vaccine you prevent deaths.”

He said that by stopping the rolling out of the vaccine, European countries “will cause more illness and more deaths” from Covid than they would ever prevent due to the “unlikely” situation that there is an increased risk of blood clots from a vaccine.

“It is not logical,” he added.

A former chief executive of the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency also defended the vaccine, saying linking it to blood clots was a “big jump”.

Sir Kent Woods said: “We mustn’t forget that in the European Union the latest figures show that there was something like 2,000 deaths a day occurring from Covid.

“This is a very serious pandemic.”

Although it was “tempting to say that the regulators in those countries are being safe, I think they’re doing the opposite”, he continued.

“I think they’re actually increasing the risk to the population in the face of a very major pandemic.”

The Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine
The WHO says the vaccine is safe (Yui Mok/PA)

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) again reiterated its belief that the vaccine is safe, though investigations are ongoing.

“WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks, and recommends that vaccinations continue,” it said in a statement.

It comes as all those in England aged 50 to 54 are now being formally invited to get their Covid vaccine.

Almost half the adult population in the UK have received a dose, a total of 25,273,226 up to March 16.

Mr Johnson said: “This latest milestone is an incredible achievement – representing 25 million reasons to be confident for the future as we cautiously reopen society.

“Thank you once again to the brilliant NHS, scientists, armed forces, volunteers, and all those who’ve helped our rollout.”