Cork medical professionals call for AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccine rollout to be considered for younger people

Cork medical professionals call for AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccine rollout to be considered for younger people

A woman receives the AstraZeneca vaccine at the vaccination centre at the Cork City Hall. Picture Dan Linehan

MEDICAL professionals in Cork have backed the possibility of using the AstraZeneca and Janssen (J&J) vaccines in younger age groups to fight the spread of the Delta variant.

Speaking at a meeting of the European Council in Brussels on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the "balance of risk" had changed due to the Delta variant and told reporters that making the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines available to a younger cohort “would really broaden the portfolio of vaccines available for July and August”.

Speaking to The Echo, Dr John Sheehan of Blackpool Bridge Surgery said that the use of both vaccines in younger people “certainly merits consideration”.

“As time has gone on and more data has become available we’ve learned that the risk involved is even lower than what originally thought,” he said.

Dr Sheehan said that the potential benefits of administering two different types of vaccines should also be considered “because there is good evidence showing that it produces quite a good immune response”.

“We’ve known for the last month or two that our supply is going to go down in July in terms of vaccine availability, so I think we need to look at all options particularly as things change,” he said.

He said that the difficulty with the Delta variant is that it can spread much easier, with about 80% of cases in 18 to 24-year-olds.

“The younger people have given up some of the most but they are also the last in the queue for vaccination so if we can get the vaccine out more, particularly with the Delta variant, every week we’ll see another two to three hundred thousand doses of vaccine given so we can get it out there it’s certainly worth considering,” he said.

Dr Sheehan said that while everyone anticipates the return of indoor dining, he suspects it will be pushed out by a few weeks.

Dr. John Sheehan. Picture Dan Linehan
Dr. John Sheehan. Picture Dan Linehan

“I think a few weeks would see an extra close to three-quarters of a million doses of vaccine being administered and there is a very strong argument with the Delta variant to push out the reopening of indoor dining by a few weeks.

“I know it’s really hard on businesses but I would be surprised if that is not what happens.

“We’d be opening up just at the time when the Delta variant is the dominant variant and it would be very hard to justify that, I have to say,” he said.

Dr Fiona Kelly, a GP in Castletownbere, whose mother runs a pub in town, said that while she would “love to see them opening” that stalling the reopening of indoor dining “would allow us to buy a bit more time and get more people vaccinated”.

“This variant is significantly more transmissible. It is up to 2.5 times more likely to hospitalise somebody. It would be a pity to ruin what we have achieved for the sake of a few weeks. It is really hard for people. Most people at this stage have Covid fatigue. I would love to get back to normal. It is a case of short-term pain for long-term gain,” she said.

Dr Kelly said the immediate emphasis should be on getting as many young people vaccinated in the coming weeks.

“We have achieved so much so far and another three weeks would buy us more time and get around 15% of the population vaccinated and protected. We have to get the vaccine into the younger people as the Delta variant is more prevalent amongst the young people. The projections are that the Delta variant could account for 40% of the cases next week. The vaccines are our way out.” 

Pharmacist Rose Murphy of Murphys Pharmacy on North Main Street, which has a stock of the Janssen vaccine, said that the vaccine should be available for younger people and that people should be able to make the decision for themselves as to whether they want the vaccine or not.

“People are losing patience and there are side effects but it is rare and we should be relying on peoples’ own intelligence and responsibility for themselves and they should be able to make that decision.

“We have the Janssen J&J vaccine here now and they’re only allowing it for over 50s at the moment which is very frustrating because the uptake is low because a lot of people are already done,” she said.

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