The prime minister is to receive his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine after reassuring the general public it had been “safe”.
Boris Johnson, 56, has urged people to urge inoculation and said England’s roadmap out of lockdown was “on track”.
He said there was “no change” to the plan despite a drop-in vaccine supply.
Several European countries are to resume using the AstraZeneca jab after the ECU Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed it had been “safe and effective”.
The regulator reviewed the vaccine amid fears about blood clots but said it had been “not associated” with better risk and therefore the benefits outweighed any risks.
Mr. Johnson told a Downing Street conference on Thursday that the AstraZeneca jab was safe but “the thing that may not be safe is catching Covid, which is why it’s so important that we all get our jabs as soon as our turn comes”.
The prime minister was himself treated in a hospital for Covid-19 in April 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.
“The because of ensure this [lockdown easing] happens is to urge that jab when your turn comes, so let’s get the jab done,” he said.
Prof Chris Whitty, a chief medic for England, said there have been “anecdotal reports” of small numbers of individuals not turning up for vaccine appointments following the controversy over the AstraZeneca jab in Europe.
But he said he expected many of these would plan to get the jab after “a pause for thought”, adding that Covid was still a “very dangerous disease”.
“People dying, people getting significant blood clotting problems, that’s one of the risks of Covid, people having long-term physical and mental effects from Covid,” he said.
Mr. Johnson said England’s progress towards leaving restrictions on lifestyle was “unchecked” by vaccine supply issues, where fewer doses have arrived from India than initially expected.
There were often delays with vaccine rollout programs, he said, and he stressed the Indian government had not stopped any exports.
Prof Neil Ferguson, from Imperial College London, said while the delay was “disappointing” he didn’t think it might have “an enormous effect” on the rollout.
However, he warned the United Kingdom needed to keep variants of concern “at bay” until it could update vaccines and roll them out to the entire population.
Prof Ferguson, who may be a member of the government’s SPI-M modeling group, told one of the Radio channel, today program there should be particular concern about cases being imported from France, where infection levels are increasing.
He added that 5-10% of cases in France were the South African variant, which is of concern because it might be more immune to current vaccines.
But Prof Ferguson suggested that adding France to the “red list” of nations, from which arrivals are required to quarantine during a hotel, wouldn’t be “practical” given the quantity of essential trade and commerce between the United Kingdom and France.
Instead, he said “a more bespoke arrangement” to mitigate the risks, perhaps including testing of arrivals, would be needed.
The European medical regulator had reviewed the AstraZeneca jab after 13 countries in Europe suspended its use over fears about blood clots during a very small number of patients.
France, Germany, and Italy, alongside Cyprus, Latvia, and Lithuania, are to resume use of the jab on Friday while Spain, Portugal, and therefore the Netherlands will do so next week.
But Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have said they’re going to still pause the utilization of the AstraZeneca vaccine while they conduct their own independent reviews.
Like his UK counterpart, French Prime Minister Jean Castex will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in an attempt to sway a doubtful French public.
Prof Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford vaccine group, said the EMA findings would help “rebuild confidence” and it had been “reassuring” that safety monitoring was happening.