Boris Johnson urged to reveal number of those dying after taking COVID vaccine

Andy Wells
·Freelance Writer
·3-min read
Elderly residents of Folkestone and the surrounding area line up to receive their first vaccine against COVID-19 outside the converted Debenhams store mass vaccination centre in the town centre on the 27th of January 2021 in Folkestone, Kent, United Kingdom.  The centre is being run by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT), which has enlisted an army of vaccinators and support staff to deliver the jabs. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
Elderly residents of Folkestone and the surrounding area line up to receive a COVID jab. (Getty)

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.

File photo dated 20/02/20 of former prime minister Tony Blair, who has said he did not enjoy being the UK Prime Minister due to the huge responsibility it entailed. Issue date: Friday April 2, 2021.
Tony Blair said the information would help allay concerns about the AstraZeneca vaccine. (PA)

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.

Watch: How do people feel about the AstraZeneca vaccine?

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.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives an update on the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic during a virtual press conference inside the new Downing Street Briefing Room in central London on April 20, 2021. - Britain on Monday imposed its strictest travel curbs on India after an explosion of coronavirus cases there, hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson called off a trip to New Delhi. (Photo by TOBY MELVILLE / POOL / AFP) (Photo by TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson said that the government is not able to give data of deaths for people who have had the COVID vaccine. (Getty)

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.

Empty vials of vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca against Covid-19 caused by the novel coronavirus are pictured at the vaccination center in Rosenheim, southern Germany, on April 20, 2021, amid the novel coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP) (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)
Empty vials of COVID vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca at the vaccination centre in Rosenheim, Germany. (Getty)

“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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