There is no question that the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine should be given to young people, according to immunologist Professor Luke O’Neill.
Speaking on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show, Prof O’Neill said that age was not a predictor of rare but serious blood clotting events associated with the vaccine.
The evidence from early stages was that clotting incidents were “extremely rare”, he added.
“Younger people seemed at a higher risk of it, that was the suggestion – hence they say, give it to the over 60s. That began to become not true because it became clear age was not a predictor for clotting,” he said.
The earlier evidence about clotting affecting younger people more had not held up, he said.
Young people had the same risk of clotting as older people, he said. The risk — as low as it was — was “across the board”. That meant that AstraZeneca should be used across all age groups, Prof O’Neill said.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) is expected to meet today to consider the use of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for younger people, amid the spread of the Delta variant.
Currently, the two vaccines are not recommended for use in people under 50 due to concerns regarding rare instances of blood clotting linked to the jabs.
Prof O’Neill said: “Of course, we are hoping Niac will say that [AstraZeneca should be used in younger age groups] and if they don’t, that means there will be doses of AstraZeneca left on the shelf unused which could be used to protect young people – especially now that Delta is here as well of course.
“The justification to give AstraZeneca to any age group is extremely strong now,” he added.
A number of European countries have limited use of the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines to older age groups amid the clotting reports, with Denmark completely excluding the jabs from its vaccine rollout.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said this morning that the country will shortly be in the position of having excess AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines “but no arms to put them in”.