Tony Blair has called on Boris Johnson's government to reveal more information about the effectiveness of COVID vaccines such as AstraZeneca's to allay "unjustified" concerns about their safety.
The former prime minister is leading calls for UK authorities to make more real-world data available amid fears some countries are pausing the rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine unnecessarily.
Blair warned that global vaccination efforts risked being undermined if “workhorse” vaccines such as the AstraZeneca product, which can be used around the world, are “discredited based on unjustified anxieties about safety or efficacy”.
He suggested the release of the UK’s total vaccination data set, including details of those who have received a jab and subsequently contracted COVID, been admitted to hospital or died.
Only this would carry the “global credibility AstraZeneca needs”, Blair said.
His comments come following reports of a rare type of blood clot connected to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
However, the UK medicines regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – has said the benefits of the jab continue to far outweigh any risks.
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Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Blair said he doesn’t see any point in “holding back the information”.
He added: “The information is there... there is data provided that shows AstraZeneca is highly effective.
“I would like us to be setting out the numbers of people who have had the vaccine – first dose and second dose, Pfizer and AstraZeneca – then the numbers of those who have still contracted COVID, the numbers of those hospitalised and the numbers of those who have died.
“I think if you do that it will show AstraZeneca is a highly effective vaccine and that those doubts that are there around the world are unjustified and wrong.”
Following the reports of blood clots, under-30s in the UK will be offered an alternative vaccine as a precautionary measure.
Other countries have taken a different approach, with Denmark stopping AstraZeneca’s use altogether in its vaccination programme.
In the foreword to a paper from the Tony Blair Institute, the former prime minister said regulators in different countries were taking decisions “based on a narrow and unbalanced view of risk” and that policymakers “need to grip this situation urgently”.
His comments come hours after Johnson was quizzed about the same issue. During a press conference on Tuesday, Johnson was asked by a member of the public if the government planned to include deaths after someone had been given the vaccine in daily figures.
The prime minister replied: “We are not yet able to give you that data or what that data would say if we were able to give it to you.
“That is not because we want to conceal anything from people, we simply don't know that data.”
He added: “I suspect that number is very small, if indeed there are any.”
The Daily Telegraph reported that scientists will present data to government advisers on Thursday that will show that of 74,405 coronavirus patients referred to UK hospitals between September and March, just 32 had been vaccinated at least three weeks previously.
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