The Papers: Family of clot victim speaks as experts urge jab

By BBC News


image captionThe news that people aged under 30 in the UK are to be offered alternative vaccines to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab makes the front page of several papers. The i newspaper says it follows “weeks of speculation” about the potential side-effect, but emphasises that the risk is extremely small for most people.
image captionThe Daily Telegraph has spoken to the family of a 59-year-old solicitor who died from a blood clot 18 days after he received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Neil Astles – the first named person to have died from a blood clot after having the jab – suffered from worsening headaches and loss of vision. His sister said his family were “furious” but that Mr Astles had been “extraordinarily unlucky” and have urged the public to “keep saving lives” by getting the jab, the paper says.
image captionBut most of the newspaper front pages seek to reassure people to still get vaccinated. The Sun newspaper also focuses on the statistics that show how very rare the blood clot events are. The paper says the medical review gave just a 0.000095% chance of developing a clot after having the AstraZeneca jab. The paper quotes Professor Jonathan Van-Tam as insisting the vaccine rollout offers our best hope of returning to normal life.
image captionThe Times says Boris Johnson has begun a campaign to maintain public confidence in the AstraZeneca jab, and ministers and government scientists are set to “embark on a media blitz to convince people to keep taking the vaccine”. Although the blood clots are rare, minister believe they will need to make a renewed case for the AstraZeneca jab, the paper says.
image captionThe government’s attempt to reassure the public to keep getting vaccinated are also the focus of the Daily Mail’s top story. It says watchdogs, scientists and politicians have all urged people to “keep faith” with the AstraZeneca jab. In a tweet, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the vaccine was “safe, effective and has already saved thousands of lives”.
image captionThe Financial Times suggests the new guidance, from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, “could complicate Britain’s vaccination programme”. Downing Street “played down the significance of the announcement” and insisted it was confident of its supplies and the vaccine rollout was still on track, the paper adds.
image captionBut in the Guardian, Prof Van-Tam is quoted as saying the change in guidance should have little or no impact on the vaccine timeline – although under-30s could face short delays in getting jabbed. The paper leads with the concerns about how the latest news could affect confidence in the vaccine . It emphasises that for older people, the benefits of the vaccine – which is the most widely used in the UK – far outweigh the risks.
image captionThe Daily Express also says the rollout will continue as planned, with Prof Van-Tam saying it will be “full speed ahead” with the vaccine programme. Instead of the AstraZeneca jab, under-30s will be offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
image captionThe Daily Mirror also focuses on the insistence that the vaccine timetable will continue as planned. The paper says the change in advice comes as a 24-year-old unpaid carer became the first person in the UK to get the Moderna jab.
image captionA different story leads the front of the Metro. The paper looks ahead to Monday, when England’s lockdown is set to be lifted further, and says rail firms are preparing to reinstate services. According to rail bosses, 18,000 train services a day will be running with increased ventilation, and thousands of extra staff have been hired to keep the trains clean. A survey by the watchdog for transport users, Transport Focus, showed 90% of train travellers now feel safe on transport, the paper adds.
image captionAnd the Daily Star’s main story is the tale of a pig called Milton who “escaped the chop” by leaping off a trailer while on his way to the abattoir. After they found the runaway pig, his owners – a family in Devon – decided to keep him. “He’s become quite a famous pig over the last 24 hours,” his owner said.

There is widespread support in the papers for the continued rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, despite a change in guidance for under-30s.

“Keep calm and carry on jabbing,” declares the Daily Mail in response to the announcement that people aged 18 to 29 in the UK are to be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab because of concerns about blood clots.

The Mail uses its leader column to point out that the “greatest danger is if large numbers of Britons… suddenly shun the jabs”.

The Sun has done its sums and, on its front page, spells out to readers that there’s a 0.000095% chance of someone getting a clot.

“Microscopic, minuscule and infinitesimal,” it says, to describe the risk.

The Times also urges its readers to “stick with” the vaccine, highlighting its importance to global efforts to fight the pandemic because it is cheap and easy to store.

The Daily Express insists that it is “full speed ahead on [the] vaccine rollout” – although the Financial Times says the abrupt change in guidance “could complicate Britain’s vaccination programme”.

Ministers and government scientists will now embark on a “media blitz”, according to the Times, to convince people the AstraZeneca jab is still safe.

But Dr Chris Papadopoulos, an expert in public health, tells the Guardian lasting damage may have already been done – describing the new guidance as a “severe blow” to public confidence.

The Spectator website thinks ministers sent out to defend the Oxford vaccine will now have to show “political courage” to admit that it is “second best”.

image copyrightGetty Images

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph leads on the story of Neil Astles, who is thought to be the first named person in the UK to have died from a clot potentially linked to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.

Mr Astles – a 59-year-old solicitor at Warrington Borough Council – suffered a blood clot on the brain and endured 10 days of “worsening headaches and loss of vision”.

His sister, Dr Dawn Astles, who is a pharmacist, says that, while the family are “furious” at what happened, they recognise he was “extraordinarily unlucky” and people should continue to get jabbed because it will mean there are fewer Covid deaths.

The Guardian reports that Professor Sarah Gilbert, the scientist who led the Oxford University team which created the jab, is expected to receive £20m as the company she co-founded prepares to float on the US stock market.

Prof Gilbert reportedly owns just over 5% of Vaccitech, while Oxford University could also collect a windfall as it has a similar stake.

The Daily Telegraph suggests Prof Gilbert’s payout may be less – £15m – as her shareholding is just 3%.

The paper also points out that the planned floatation in the US “will come as a blow” to London, which had embarked on a major push to attract companies to the City.

image copyrightJohn Cairns/University of Oxford

image captionProf Sarah Gilbert – the architect of the Oxford jab – got to work quickly on the jab in January 2020

“Britain to reach herd immunity next week” is one headline in the Daily Telegraph.

According to modelling from University College London, the percentage of people with protection against Covid-19 will hit 73.4% on Monday.

The paper says these findings are likely to be well received by the government, with ministers reportedly unhappy at the “pessimistic tone” of the modelling presented to Sage.

However, there’s some slightly more worrying news in the i newspaper with government scientists concerned about a rise in coronavirus cases linked to the South African variant and a “deadlier, less known strain” first identified in Nigeria.

The i newspaper also has a story on Southampton City Council, which has been threatened with legal action for blocking a humanist’s attempt to join a committee overseeing local religious education teaching.

Humanists UK says the decision to reject Mary Wallbank’s application flies in the face of human rights.

One Church of England representative allegedly said allowing her to join the committee would be a “Trotskyist move”. The council says it will begin a “thorough review” of the application process.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionEducation Secretary Gavin Williamson has called for discipline and structure as children return to schools

“Gavin’ a laugh,” is the Daily Mirror’s take on the education secretary’s proposals to improve behaviour in schools in England.

It suggests even the “the most unruliest pupil” is not as disruptive as Gavin Williamson, whose “bad behaviour” includes the exams fiasco and forcing schools to reopen after Christmas before shutting them a day later.

But he gets support from the Daily Star, which says he “may be onto something” with plans to ban mobile phones from classrooms.

Greensill latest

The Financial Times reports that Labour is now facing questions over the Greensill Capital scandal, after it emerged that a shadow cabinet member lobbied for the collapsed firm to have greater access to government-backed loans.

In a letter from May 2020 – seen by the FT – the shadow defence secretary, John Healey, urged ministers to give Greensill access to the higher £200m loan cap. Mr Healey’s South Yorkshire constituency includes Liberty Speciality Steels operations, which was backed by Greensill.

Mr Healey told the paper he had no regrets in making the pitch as a local MP.

Under the headline “Iceland of my fathers”, the Sun reports on the supermarket which has been told to use Welsh for its signage.

Iceland’s application to display its name in English only on a new branch in Aberystwyth has been opposed by the town council.

The authority says it is against “monolingual signage”. The paper points out this is just the latest salvo involving Iceland and Wales, after the company’s PR director was forced to resign earlier this year for calling Welsh “a dead language”.

And finally, many papers feature images of Britain’s largest rhododendron bush.

The plant – which is located in the grounds of a hotel in Horsham – has grown to a “tree-mendous” size according to the Daily Mail, meaning a double-decker bus could easily fit inside.

The head gardener has told the Daily Star he is unsure why “shrubzilla” looks so good this year, suggesting it could just be down to nature.

While the Daily Express calls the plant’s success “one rhode map” that’s a “blooming marvellous” way to take us further out of lockdown.

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