MISINFORMATION and vaccine hesitancy could undermine the fight against the deadly coronavirus pandemic, Tony Blair warns.

The former prime minister Tony Blair has warned that global inoculation efforts could be undermined if vaccines were discredited ‘based on unjustified anxieties’.

In recent weeks there have been 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.

As a precautionary measure, under-30s will be offered an alternative vaccine.

Other countries have taken a different approach, with Denmark stopping AstraZeneca’s use altogether in its vaccination programme.

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The Argus:

The AstraZeneca vaccine - (PA)

Tony Blair is calling on the government to release the UK's total vaccination data set including details of those who have received a jab and subsequently contracted Covid-19, been admitted to hospital or died.

Only this would carry the “global credibility AstraZeneca needs”, Mr Blair said.

In the foreword to a paper from the Tony Blair Institute, the former prime minister said vaccine reluctance – particularly around AstraZeneca – is “completely wrong and unjustified”, regulators in different countries were taking decisions “based on a narrow and unbalanced view of risk” and policymakers “need to grip this situation urgently”.

But how safe really is the AstraZeneca vaccine? Here are some of the most common myths dispelled: 

1. The vaccine was not tested rigorously enough and it was rushed through

The speed at which the vaccines were produced was down to the global effort and unity among experts. 

All of the safety checks and approval steps that are required for any other new drug or vaccine have been completed but lengthy clinical trials with hundreds-of-thousands of volunteers is not needed. 

Instead, the UK's drug regulator has said that data from existing studies and ongoing real-world use could be used.

Scientists hope to tweak coronavirus vaccines to ensure they continue to offer high protection as new variants of the disease emerge.

The Covid-19 vaccines are variations on vaccine systems that were designed for previous infections, like Ebola, malaria and MERS – so the foundations were already built for these vaccines even before Covid-19 began to spread.

The Argus:

Tony Blair warns that vaccine hesitancy and myths could undermine global innoculation programme (PA).

We only had to adapt the systems to fit the coronavirus, once we knew its particular characteristics. 

One of the main reasons vaccines usually take so long to produce is due to funding and lack of volunteers - both of these issues were quickly overcome with the fight against COVID-19. 

2. We don't know the long-term side-effects of the vaccine 

This is partly true and partly not - yes, the vaccines are pretty new, but because they are based on other vaccines the expectations of the vaccine are expected to be similar. 

Equally, we don't know what the long-term effects of contracting the coronavirus are - we know it damages organs and we've seen reports on 'long covid'.

3. We're being forced to take the vaccine

No one is forced to take the coronavirus vaccine - it is a personal and collective responsibility that aims to protect the entire community from this deadly virus.

4. I don't need to wear a mask once I've been vaccinated

This is not true, the vaccine does not stop you from spreading the virus therefore you must still wear a mask (if you are not exempt) until government guidance on the issue changes. 

5. I can't get COVID-19 once I've had the vaccine 

The vaccines are shown to be 90 to 95% effective, meaning that 9 out of 10 people who are vaccinated will be protected against infection. 

Two doses of the vaccine give you much better protection than one dose but each person will be protected differently after the vaccine - so one out of every 10 people could still be at risk.  

For more information about the AstraZeneca vaccine, visit the government website.