UK's Johnson says he will have AztraZeneca jab, dismisses safety fears

By: AFP      Published: 08:50 PM, 17 Mar, 2021
UK's Johnson says he will have AztraZeneca jab, dismisses safety fears

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday he will take the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca after a number of European countries halted their rollout of the jab over safety fears.

Johnson dismissed questions in parliament about why several countries had suspended use of the product developed by the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company with scientists at Oxford University.

But he told lawmakers: "I finally got news and I've got to have my own jab, very shortly, I'm pleased to discover.

"It will certainly be Oxford AstraZeneca, that I will be having."

Johnson, who is 56, is among the next category of people being called for vaccination. The government hopes to have offered it to all adults by July.

Britain is also using a jab developed by Pfizer/BioNTech in its rollout programme but recipients do not normally get a choice.

Johnson wrote in the Times newspaper the "vaccine is safe and works extremely well".

His latest comments join a chorus of full-throated support for the AstraZeneca shot from Britain's political and royal establishment.

European countries including France, Spain and Germany are among those who have halted using the jab pending a review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

But Queen Elizabeth II's oldest son and heir, Prince Charles, on Wednesday criticised opposition to coronavirus vaccines, saying fear was unfounded.

"Who would have thought, for instance, that in the 21st century that there would be a significant lobby opposing vaccination, given its track record in eradicating so many terrible diseases," he said in an article in the Future Healthcare Journal.

Charles, who has been vocal in advocating the rollout of the vaccine among more reluctant minority communities in Britain, added the jab had the "potential to protect and liberate some of the most vulnerable in our society from coronavirus".

The 72-year-old Prince of Wales tested positive for coronavirus last year and suffered mild symptoms. He had his first dose of a vaccine in February.

His wife, Camilla, 73, confirmed on Tuesday she had been given the AstraZeneca shot.

"You take what you are given," she said as the pair visited a vaccination centre at a north London mosque, adding that she had no ill effects.

No evidence

Professor Jeremy Brown, from government advisory body the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said suspension of the jab was "not logical".

"There is the concern that what's happening in Europe might make people in the UK less confident in the AstraZeneca vaccine," he told broadcaster ITV.  

In a newspaper article published on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was "no evidence" that vaccines caused blood clots.

The EMA, the World Health Organization and Britain's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency have all backed the AstraZeneca jab, he wrote in The Sun.

"The rate of reported cases (of clots) among the people vaccinated is lower than what would be expected to happen naturally in the general population," he wrote.

Britain has given nearly 25 million people a first dose of a Covid vaccine -- including 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab -- after starting a mass inoculation programme in December last year.

Vaccinations are seen as central to getting Britain out of lockdown and back to normality.

France and Italy have said they will "promptly restart" giving the jab if the EMA review allows it.

As Britain has surged ahead with its vaccination programme, European countries have been accused of playing politics to distract from their sluggish inoculation rollouts.

European leaders were angered in January after AstraZeneca announced it was unable to deliver the agreed numbers of jabs to the bloc.