AstraZeneca: Is the vaccine safe, side effects, does it cause blood clots, is it offered as a booster, what age groups can have it and why can under 30's no longer receive it?

THE Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is one of many that can protect you against Covid-19.
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The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine stimulates the body's natural defences to combat coronavirus.

The vaccine causes the body to produce antibodies to protect against Covid-19 in the future.

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The AstraZeneca was approved in the UK late last year, with the first doses administered in January of this year.

The AstraZeneca vaccine aims to protect against Covid-19.The AstraZeneca vaccine aims to protect against Covid-19.
The AstraZeneca vaccine aims to protect against Covid-19.
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Here's everything you need to know about the AstraZeneca vaccine:

Is the vaccine safe?

According to the British Heart Foundation, the AstraZeneca vaccine is very safe.

The vaccine was approved for use after a series of thorough tests on tens of thousands of people.

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Up to October 20 this year, over 24.9 million people have at least received one dose of the vaccine, with a majority of recipients having no serious side effects or reactions.

The vaccine has continued to be monitored by Europe's medicines regulator, The World Health Organisation (WHO).

The organisation have said that the vaccine is safe and have emphasised that the benefits of having the AstraZeneca jab outweigh the risks.

What are the side effects?

It is known that all medicines can cause side effects, including vaccines.

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Many people manage to not have any side effects after the vaccine.

For the AstraZeneca vaccine, the vast majority of side effects that occur are short term and mild, like the other vaccines.

Discomfort at the injection site is the most common side effect as well as feeling unwell, tired, feverish, feeling sick and having joint or muscle pain. Headaches are also a common side effect.

You can treat these side effects by taking paracetamol.

Side effects are often proof that the vaccine is doing what it is supposed to do as your immune system reacts to the protein in the vaccine, which can sometimes make you feel unwell.

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It is important to note that it is not a Covid-19 illness and the vaccine cannot give you the virus.

You can see the common and uncommon side effects here.

Extremely rare side effects (less that 1 in 10,000 people) can include severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), blood clots occurring with low levels of platelets, swelling under the skin, capillary leak syndrome (where fluids leak from the smallest blood vessels, causing a drop in blood pressure and swelling) and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a condition where the immune system damages nerve cells).

Can the vaccine cause blood clots?

Up until October 20 this year, there were 423 reports from those who had developed rare blood clots which is linked to low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia) after receiving their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK.

46 of those reports were following a second dose of the vaccine.

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Blood clots after receiving the vaccine are rare and the 423 cases of blood clots are after an estimated 24.9m first doses and 24.1m second doses.

Of the 423 people who developed blood clots, 72 died and six of these deaths occurred after the first dose.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have emphasised that the benefits when it comes to the AstraZeneca vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people.

The estimated rate of death is extremely low at about one in every 345,000 vaccinated people.

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The risks of not having the vaccine are greater than the risk of having it.

Can the AstraZeneca vaccine cause a stroke?

There has been a small number of reports from young people under the age of 45 who have had a stroke within the first month of having the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Ischaemic strokes are the most common type of stroke and they are caused by a blood clot that blocks the arteries that provide blood and oxygen to the brain.

The chance of having a stroke due to the vaccine is extremely low and strokes are more common in those who get Covid-19.

What age groups can have the AstraZeneca vaccine?

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Those aged 40 and over can receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in the UK.

Why can under 40s not have the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Following concerns around rare blood clots, the MHRA recommended in May of this year that 18-39 year olds were to have an alternative of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The recommendation came after a review by the UK drugs regulator as there had been 242 clotting cases and 49 deaths, with 28.5 million doses of the vaccine administered.

In April, it was confirmed that those under the age of 30 were not to be offered AstraZeneca but this has now changed to those under 40.

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The risk of blood clotting is slightly higher in younger age groups.

Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are offered as an alternative for those in this age group.

Is AstraZeneca offered as a booster jab?

Currently in the UK, only certain groups can have a Covid-19 booster jab after their first two doses of any Covid-19 vaccine.

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The booster can give you longer-term protection against becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.

The groups that can currently have a booster jab include:

-Those aged 40 and over

-Those who live and work in care homes,

-Frontline health and social care workers

-Those aged 16 and over with a health condition who are high risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19

-Those aged 16 and over who live with someone who is more likely to get infections (someone who has HIV, has had a transplant or is having certain treatments for cancer, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis)

Pregnant women who are in one of the eligible groups can also have the booster jab.

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Most people are offered a booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine which could mean you receive a different vaccine than what you had for your first or second doses.

You could be offered a booster dose of AstraZeneca if you cannot have the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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