The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine should not be administered to people under the age of 60, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has said.
In a statement this evening, NIAC said the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine “is not recommended for those aged under 60 years including those with medical conditions with very high or high risk of severe Covid-19 disease”.
The advisory body added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be limited to those “aged 60 years and older”.
NIAC said anyone under the age of 60 who has had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine with a “very high-risk or high-risk medical condition” should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as scheduled.
But anyone aged under 60 who is not considered to be high-risk should have the second dose of the vaccine extended to 16 weeks “to allow for further assessment of the benefits and risks as more evidence becomes available”.
Anyone aged 60 and older should receive their second dose of AstraZeneca 12 weeks later as scheduled.
The move follows the outcome of the recent investigation by the European Medicines Agency.
The EMA has added unusual clotting events with low platelet counts as very rare side effects to the vaccine product information.
These rare events are estimated to occur between 4 and 10 in every 1 million people, one of whom may die.
Commenting on the new advice, NIAC Chair, Prof Karina Butler, said: “All the authorised Covid-19 vaccines - Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, and the newly approved Janssen - are highly effective in preventing hospitalisation and severe COVID-19 disease. Vaccination with Vaxzevria Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective and substantially reduces the risk of severe Covid-19 disease across all age groups.
“NIAC realises the need to balance the significant benefits of a national vaccination programme with the very rare risk of these reported events. While this is an extremely rare condition, consideration must be given to the fact that it has a very high risk of death or severe outcome. As the risk/benefits of Vaxzevria Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine may vary by age and as alternative COVID-19 vaccines are available NIAC has revised the recommendations for use of this vaccine.
“In developing these recommendations, NIAC is informed by the available scientific evidence and the risk/benefits of the vaccines. New evidence will be reviewed once available and any further required recommendations will be notified to the Department of Health.
“We strongly encourage everyone to accept the Covid-19 vaccine they are offered. A high uptake of vaccine in every age group is needed if Covid-19 is to be controlled, so that public health restrictions may be safely removed” Prof Butler said.
The HSE said this evening that it has contacted Hospital Groups and Community Healthcare Organisations to advise that all AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccination Clinics planned for tomorrow should be cancelled in light of updated guidance received from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, and the Department of Health.
"Anybody due to attend an Astra Zeneca clinic is therefore advised not to do so," it said.
Patients are being advised they will be contacted in due course to rearrange their appointment.
"Following full consideration of the updated guidance, the HSE will advise further in terms of wider implications for the administration of the vaccination programme," the HSE said.