‘Many, many more’ will die in Europe due to ‘stop-start’ COVID vaccine strategies, expert says

A top UK vaccine adviser has warned the 'stop-start' coronavirus jab policies of European countries will mean “many, many more” people will die from the virus than in the UK. (PA)
Inset, a chart showing the UK's coronavirus vaccine rollout compared to EU countries, as a top UK vaccine adviser criticised the 'stop-start' jab policies of nations on the continent. (PA)

A top UK vaccine adviser has warned the “stop-start” coronavirus jab policies of European countries will mean “many, many more” people will die from the virus than in the UK.

Defending the UK’s strategy, Prof Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: “Everything we’ve decided so far has come good.”

It follows Wednesday’s “course correction” in which it was announced under-30s will not be given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine due to “extremely rare” blood clot side effects.

The JCVI advised under-30s should instead be offered the Pfizer or Moderna jabs.

Watch: Should I be worried about the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine?

This is a different approach to the EU’s regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which also recognised the “very rare” blood clot side effects of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab but didn’t advise age restrictions on who should get the jab. However, individual countries have done this anyway.

Prof Harnden, questioned about this different approach on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Thursday, said: “Europe is so far behind what we’re doing in this country that many, many more people will die in Europe because of their stop-start vaccination strategies than they will in this country.”

He said the UK’s strategy has “been solid, we’ve rolled it out quickly, we’ve responded to safety signals, we’ve chosen the right age groups, we’ve made bold decisions about that delayed second dose and everything we’ve decided so far has come good – so I think the public needs to be with us on this”.

EU countries including Germany, France, the Netherlands and Sweden have restricted the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people, while Denmark has paused it completely.

Read more:

Matt Hancock insists AstraZeneca COVID jab is ‘safe for all ages’ despite ‘extremely small’ blood clot risk

Have your say: Do you have any concerns about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine?

This year, the EU has endured well-documented problems with its vaccine rollout, and many of its member states are now suffering a third wave of infections.

On the other hand, the UK’s vaccine programme has far outstripped that of most of the 27 countries in the bloc, as this chart from Oxford University’s Our World in Data website demonstrates.

(Our World in Data)
(Our World in Data)

Prof Harnden, meanwhile, said he is “pretty confident” there will be enough vaccine to reach the UK's target of offering a first dose to all adults by the end of July – even without the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab for under-30s.

He said: “With a little bit of rejigging, and maybe a one or two-week delay for some people, we’ll get round this, but I’m quite confident we will reach those targets with the current advice that we’re giving.”

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