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Tony Blair calls for UK to publish data to bolster confidence in AstraZeneca jab

David Hughes
·2-min read

The UK authorities should publish more information on the coronavirus vaccination programme in order to allay concerns about the AstraZeneca jab, Tony Blair has said.

The former prime minister warned that global vaccination efforts risked being undermined if “workhorse” vaccines such as the Oxford/AstraZeneca product, which can be used around the world, are “discredited based on unjustified anxieties about safety or efficacy”.

He suggested the release of the UK’s total vaccination data set, including details of those who have received a jab and subsequently contracted Covid-19, been admitted to hospital or died.

Only this would carry the “global credibility AstraZeneca needs”, Mr Blair said.

Vials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccin
Vials of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine (Yui Mok/PA)

There have been reports of a rare type of bloods clot connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the UK medicines regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – has said the benefits of the jab continue to far outweigh any risks.

Watch: How do people feel about the AstraZeneca vaccine?

As a precautionary measure, under-30s will be offered an alternative vaccine.

Other countries have taken a different approach, with Denmark stopping AstraZeneca’s use altogether in its vaccination programme.

In the foreword to a paper from the Tony Blair Institute, the former prime minister said vaccine reluctance – particularly around AstraZeneca – is “completely wrong and unjustified”, regulators in different countries were taking decisions “based on a narrow and unbalanced view of risk” and policymakers “need to grip this situation urgently”.

He called on the UK to set an example by publishing the full data set of people vaccinated, broken down by first and second dose and age group, along with information on Covid-19 cases after receiving a jab, hospital admissions and deaths.

The data would allow a comparison between AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs because the UK is the only country to have deployed both in similar amounts at large scale.

The Daily Telegraph reported that scientists will present data to Government advisers on Thursday which will show that of 74,405 coronavirus patients referred to UK hospitals between September and March, just 32 had been vaccinated at least three weeks before.

The institute’s other recommendations included establishing an international high-level group of experts to offer “clear and consistent guidance” on vaccines to national regulators.

Mr Blair’s think tank also suggested regulators should not pause the rollout of vaccinations over a suspected side effect but should instead wait until investigations are completed.

“Pausing to investigate is normal and correct practice in normal times,” the report said. “We are not in normal times.

“The risk from halting vaccines is further hesitancy around the workhorse vaccines and this should be a last resort, rather than the go-to option.”

Watch: Coronavirus peaks examined across the UK