UPDATE 7 APRIL: People under the age of 30 will now be offered an alternative coronavirus vaccine formula to the AstraZeneca jab (if t, as further evidence suggests it may be linked to rare blood clots forming.
The UK's vaccine advisory body said a review by the drugs regulator MHRA recently discovered that by the end of March, 79 people who had received the AstraZeneca shot later suffered from rare blood clots. Sadly, nineteen of those cases proved fatal.
However, the regulation body added that there is still a lack of firm proof that the AstraZeneca jab had caused the clots, only that the link was getting "firmer", according to a report from the BBC. It appears that the pause on AstraZeneca within certain age groups is temporary and precautionary, while further investigations are being carried out.
Those who have already had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are still being advised to get their second dose.
We reported back on the 16th of March that several EU countries, such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy, had suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which protects against COVID-19, after a small number of recipients went on to develop blood clots shortly afterwards.
Austria also stopped certain batches of the drug being dispensed and in Belgium, Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic, the rollout of Oxford-AstraZeneca is continuing on as normal.
According to a former BBC report published some three weeks ago, Emer Cooke, Head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said the body is standing by its decision to approve the vaccine for use in the first place, saying it remains "firmly convinced" that the benefits outweigh any possible side effects.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged all countries not to halt vaccinations and said that WHO vaccine safety experts will meet to review the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab this week and the results of the investigation will be released on Thursday.
According to the EMA, the number of blood clots said to be reported in vaccinated people is no different than that seen in the general population.
"We know that many thousands of people develop blood clots in the EU so what we want is to establish whether these events are [in relation to] the vaccine or by other causes," said Cooke. "While the investigation is ongoing, currently, we are still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing Covid-19, with its associated risks of hospitalisation and death, outweigh the risks."
Another form of COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna, has also seen recipients raise concerns over some side effects, one of which is a symptom that may easily be confused with breast cancer. According to data from initial clinical trials, swollen lymph nodes were found to be present in around 11% of people who received the Moderna vaccine after their first dose and 16% after their second dose in the trials.
The Moderna vaccine is not yet available in the UK - currently only the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca are in use here – but it is said to be rolling out in spring, so could come any time in the next few weeks. Experts have reassured that swollen lymph nodes as a result are likely nothing to worry about, but if they're causing you concern, book in for a chat with your GP.
In general, according to the NHS website, side effects of receiving any COVID-19 vaccine include:
A sore arm where the needle went in
Feeling or being sick
It advises taking paracetamol if needed, and if symptoms worsen, calling 111.
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