He told BBC Breakfast: “It is safe. People should get the vaccine.
“What I can tell you crystal clear – the UK regulator, the European/EU regulator and the WHO (World Health Organisation) all say that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and people should continue to take it.
“What is clear, and we have gone through this very carefully during the trials but also now given our experience of the roll-out – there is no additional risk from taking the vaccine and people should continue to take the vaccine. It is a life-saving step to take.”
Australia also firmly backed the Oxford/AZ vaccine today.
“The government clearly, unequivocally, absolutely supports the AstraZeneca rollout, clearly, unequivocally, absolutely,” the country’s health minister Greg Hunt told the Australian Parliament in Canberra.
“And the reason why is very simple – it will help save lives and protect lives, and it’s done so on the basis of the medical advice.”
Australia has vaccinated about 200,000 people so far and plans to import and manufacture 70 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said there was no evidence so far that the vaccine causes blood clots.
“Blood clots happen, they happen in Australia fairly commonly,” he said. “But, from my perspective, I do not see that there is any specific link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots, and I’m not alone in that opinion.”
Many countries in Asia were also continuing to use the jabs despite some nations in the EU temporarily stopping doing so amid concerns that it could be linked to blood clots.
After having the first dose of the AZ vaccine, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said: “There are people who have concerns.
“But we must believe doctors, believe in our medical professionals.”
AstraZeneca has developed a manufacturing base in Asia, and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has been contracted by the company to produce a billion doses of the vaccine for developing nations. Hundreds of millions more are to be manufactured this year in Australia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea.
Thailand last week was the first country outside Europe to temporarily suspend using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Indonesia followed on Monday, saying it was waiting for a full report from the World Health Organisation regarding possible side effects.
But Thailand’s health authorities decided to go ahead with AstraZeneca, with the premier and members of his Cabinet receiving the first shots.
Other countries in the Asian region said they would press ahead with vaccination programmes.
The EU’s drug regulatory agency called a meeting for Thursday to review experts’ findings on the AstraZeneca shot and to decide whether action needs to be taken.
By far the largest user of the AstraZeneca vaccine is India.
India is using two vaccines – the AstraZeneca shot made by Serum Institute of India, and another one by Indian vaccine maker Bharat Biotech – to immunize its vast population. Of the more than 25.6 million people in India who have received at least one shot of a vaccine, over 23.4 million have received the AstraZeneca shot, according to government data.
Health officials told the Press Trust of India news agency on Saturday that a total of 234 adverse events, including 71 deaths, had been reported after receiving either vaccine – but that no causal link had been found. The government is now reviewing the cases for a final assessment.