The AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine provides a “significant benefit” in avoiding hospital admission across all age groups, the European Medicines Regulator (EMA) has said.
Overall, the benefits of the jab continue to outweigh the risks of rare blood clots, and benefits increase in older age groups and in areas with higher levels of coronavirus infection, the regulator said.
The EMA said its human medicines committee (CHMP) had analysed available data on the vaccine to put the risk of rare blood clots into context of benefits for different age groups and different rates of infection.
Presenting interim findings on Friday, Dr Peter Arlett, the EMA’s head of data analytics and methods task force, said the AstraZeneca vaccine is “highly effective at preventing infection, and therefore hospitalisation and death”.
He said: “Today nine graphics have been published for the three outcomes, hospitalisations, ICU (intensive care unit) admissions and deaths avoided, assuming an 80% vaccine effectiveness over a four-month period, and three levels of virus exposure, low, medium and high.
“As an example of the results of the work, we observed that hospital admissions prevented exceeds blood clots across all age categories and all virus exposure levels.
“ICU admissions prevented exceeds blood clots, across all age categories for medium and high virus exposures.
“And deaths prevented exceeds blood clots in those (aged) above 30 for high virus exposure, above 40 for medium virus exposure, and above 60 for low virus exposure.”
He said hospital admission with Covid-19 is “extremely serious” and that when it comes to the AstraZeneca vaccine “there’s a significant benefit in terms of avoiding hospitalisation across all age groups”.
He added: “The data on ICU admissions and on deaths, there are too few events in the younger age group to show that benefit, but for hospitalisation the data are very clear.”
The EMA’s deputy executive director Noel Wathion said: “Our interim conclusion is that overall the data showed that the benefits of vaccination increase with age, and with increasing levels of infection in the community.”
The EMA said the risk of very rare cases of unusual blood clots with low blood platelets is estimated to be around one in 100,000 vaccinated people.
Some European countries have restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups, citing the risk of such clots in younger people.
In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said that due to a very small number of blood clots in younger people, those under the age of 30 will be offered Pfizer or Moderna jabs instead.
The MHRA’s position remains that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.