Ireland’s plan to rollout Covid-19 vaccines is facing a significant overhaul amid expectations that use of the AstraZeneca jab will be limited to those over the age of 60.
The Irish Times reports there is a growing expectation that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) will recommend the vaccine only be administered to this older cohort.
Sources indicated large parts of the State’s rollout programme will need to be changed if the Niac advice is implemented as is expected.
This could include examining how those in the fourth vaccination cohort, those aged 16 to 69 and deemed very high risk, will be vaccinated in the coming weeks.
AstraZeneca doses are set to make up some 20 per cent of doses to be delivered to the State in the second quarter of the year.
Niac met last week after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found a possible link between AstraZeneca's vaccine and rare blood clotting issues in adults who have received the shot.
The drug regulator said that European countries should make their own decisions about how to handle the risk of the rare blood clots, based on prevailing infection rates and the availability of alternative vaccines.
General practitioners in Ireland have been advised not to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to very high-risk patients until an update is available from Niac.
Government Ministers fear that new restrictions on the use of AstraZeneca doses could slow the State’s vaccine rollout just when it was supposed to be accelerating.
Speaking on Monday morning, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that the Government will await a decision from Niac before any decision is made about further changes to the vaccination programme.
There was no point engaging in "what-if" speculation about the AstraZeneca vaccine, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
“When we get word from Niac, if we have to adjust (the programme), we will do so,” he said.