Will withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine affect your next COVID booster jab?

Medical syringe is seen with AstraZeneca logo and 'omicron' sign displayed in the background in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland on November 29, 2021. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto)
AstraZeneca is withdrawing its COVID vaccine, the company has announced. (PA) (Jakub Porzycki, NurPhoto SRL)

AstraZeneca has confirmed that it is withdrawing its COVID vaccine, due to what it says is a "surplus of available updated vaccines".

Billions of doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide since the rollout began during the pandemic. However, with other vaccines coming to the market, and the AstraZeneca vaccine no longer being manufactured or supplied, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical said on Tuesday that it has initiated a worldwide withdrawal.

In a statement, the company the withdrawal was because “multiple variant COVID-19 vaccines have since been developed there’s a surplus of available updated vaccines”.

The statement added: “Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca claimed that independent estimates suggested over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use. However, their statement comes months after the pharma giant admitted the drug could cause very rare but life-threatening injuries.

The company admitted in court documents that the vaccine causes side effects such as blood clots and low blood platelet counts.

Close up of senior Asian woman getting Covid-19 vaccine in arm for Coronavirus immunization by a doctor at hospital. Elderly healthcare and illness prevention concept
AstraZeneca says its vaccine saved 6.5 million lives in the first year alone. (Getty) (d3sign via Getty Images)

The spring booster programme is underway and the withdrawal of the AstraZeneca vaccine will not have any effect on your next COVID boost. Appointments were offered from April and UK Health Security Agency advice on bookings set out the vaccines that would be used.

The guidance said that only mRNA Pfizer or Moderna vaccines would be used in the booster programme. Both vaccines have been updated to protect against more recent coronavirus strains. AstraZeneca boosters shots were not offered and therefore there are no changes needed to be made.

The NHS is taking bookings from those people eligible for a spring coronavirus booster jab. There are three groups who are eligible for the booster: adults who will be aged 75 years and over by 30 June; people in care homes for older adults and those aged six months and over who are immunosuppressed.

The vaccine is available in pharmacies, GP surgeries and at some drop-in vaccination centres. Those who are at highest risk are being contacted first. Spring vaccinations will be available until 30 June.

Brasov, Romania - February 21, 2021: Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on a white background.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are being offered in the spring booster. (Getty) (carmengabriela via Getty Images)

Those who are eligible will receive a text, email, NHS App message or letter about the booster, but they don't have to wait for the invite. People can book an appointment for the coronavirus jab on the NHS website, via the NHS App, by calling 119 or by going to a walk-in clinic.

People who are eligible will generally be invited to have their booster about six months after their last vaccine, but they can have it after three months.

The NHS says people should not have a COVID jab until they feel better if they have recently had coronavirus. They should also wait if they have a high temperature or feel unwell with another illness. However, if they have recently recovered from COVID and feel well they can take the vaccine.

Both private clinics and high street pharmacies have started selling and administering COVID vaccines, ranging in price from about £45 to £100. Those who are willing to pay for a vaccine must be aged 12 or above and not had a COVID jab for the past three months. They should also check with a health professional beforehand.