AstraZeneca Vaccine Guidance Change

The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh the risks for most people. Healthy adults under 40, with no health conditions may be offered an alternative vaccine. Find out more

What you need to know 

The UK vaccination programme has been very successful, with over 35 million people vaccinated and many thousands of lives saved.

The MHRA and JCVI advise that adults over 40 and those with underlying health conditions can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, as the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Adults under 40 with no health conditions should be offered an alternative vaccine to AstraZeneca, such as Pfizer or Moderna.

In the absence of a suitable alternative, healthy under 40s should still be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine, and may choose to receive the vaccine - provided they have been informed and understand the relative risks and benefits.

Under 40s who have already received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should continue to be offered a second dose of AstraZeneca, regardless of their age - providing of course they are not one of the 10 in a million people who experienced a major clotting event in relation to their first dose.

Why has this change occurred? 

There have been some reports of a very rare condition involving blood clots. In terms of scale around 10 people develop this condition for every million that receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is slightly more common in younger people and tends to occur between 4 days and 4 weeks following vaccination.

Whilst the risk of harm from the vaccine is very small (10 in a million), for healthy people who are under 40 the risk fo harm from Covid-19 is also quite low (350 in a million).

Because of this, healthy people aged under 40 may be offered an alternative vaccine where available. However, people under 40 are also free to choose to have the AstraZeneca vaccine if it means they can be vaccinated sooner.

What to do if you are affected

If you experience any of the following symptoms 4 days to 4 weeks after your first dose, seek medical advice urgently:

  • severe headache
  • unexplained bruising
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • leg swelling 
  • persistent abdominal pain

Does my medical history increase the risk from the AstraZeneca vaccine?

The rare blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine are believed to be caused by an unusual and very specific immune response to the vaccine. Blood clots linked to the vaccine are not related to other forms of blood clots or blood clotting disorders.

There is no additional risk from this vaccine for people with a prior history of heart or circulatory conditions, those who have had blood clots or those who take medication to reduce their risk of blood clots from this vaccine.

Unvaccinated people with these medical conditions are at a much higher risk of harm, including significant blood clotting events, from COVID-19 infection than from the vaccine and would gain significant protection by taking the first vaccine available to them.

Are the vaccines still safe? Common questions about the vaccine

Can I book a Pfizer vaccine or get one privately?

No. Covid-19 vaccines are not available privately.

Vaccines can only be booked through the NHS by visiting the website or by calling 119.

You will be offered the vaccine that is available at the appointment that you attend and will be booked in for a second appointment 11-12 weeks later for your 2nd dose of the same vaccine.

It is not possible to choose which vaccine you wish to have but you are free to choose whether or not to accept the vaccine that you are offered.

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