HEALTH chiefs in the region last night urged people to continue to get their jabs after the UK medicines regulator said there was a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and “extremely rare” blood clots.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks overall. While it has not concluded that the vaccine causes brain clots, it says the link is getting firmer and people under the age of 30 will be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca.

Amanda Riley, clinical director of Darlington’s Primary Care Network, said: “I want to reassure everyone in Darlington that the benefits of having the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine still hugely outweigh the risks associated with the jab.

“The advice to offer alternative vaccines, like Pfizer or Moderna, without risk factors to under 30s in preference to the Oxford jab is out of extreme caution – not necessity.

“Darlington residents under 30 should still come forward for their Covid jab when it is offered, as it remains the best way to protect them against severe illness associated with Covid-19 and out of the pandemic, towards a more normal way of life.

“The most effective protection comes from having both doses of the vaccine, so please don’t be put off booking an appointment for your second jab if you have already had your first.

“The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives. Please continue to take the vaccine to protect yourself and our Darlington communities against Covid-19.”

Amanda Healy, Durham County Council’s director of public health, said: “The vaccination roll-out is extremely important in protecting us against coronavirus and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has been very clear that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers huge benefits in preventing Covid-19 and serious disease.

“The decision to offer under 30s an alternative vaccine has been carefully considered due to a very small number of blood clots but the agency has found this risk is extremely small and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.

“It is therefore vitally important that all adults come forward for their vaccine when they are invited to do so and the agency is advising that everyone who has had their first dose of AstraZeneca comes forward for their second dose. Vaccinations offer the best protection against coronavirus and are hugely important in helping us to lead a more normal life as restrictions begin to ease.”