By Cate McCurry, PA
The Government’s goal of administering 180,000 jabs this week will be missed following the change in advice on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Thousands of vaccine appointments this week will be rescheduled by the HSE after the the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) said that the vaccine should not be administered to people under the age of 60 in Ireland.
The decision came after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) warned that rare blood clots have been associated with the jab.
The HSE is examining the effect of the change in advice on the Government’s vaccine rollout programme.
Some 813,000 AstraZeneca vaccines are due to be delivered over the next three months, including 224,000 in April.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said officials will know in the coming days whether 80 per cent of the adult population will still be able to receive their first vaccine by June.
The HSE is to receive its first delivery of the Janssen vaccine this week, with 40,800 doses to be delivered this month.
Mr Varadkar said it was a difficult decision for Niac to make.
“They weighed up all the pros and cons. There are four vaccines now licensed for use in Ireland, they are all very effective, close to 100 per cent effective against severe illness and death,” he told Newstalk.
“All vaccines are medicines and all medicines have side effects. Some are common and mild, some are rare and serious, and this does appear to be rare.
“It appears it is treatable. Maybe it is the case that down the line they are able to widen the groups that can have this again.
“There are well over half a million people over the age of 60 yet to be vaccinated so we will make good use of it.
“We are not going to hit 180,000 doses this week.
“We will know in the next couple of days if we are going to hit four out of five adults by June.”
Mr Varadkar, who is a qualified doctor, said that he would have no hesitation recommending AstraZeneca to people over the age of 60.
“The risk of getting this [side-effect] is minuscule compared to getting Covid,” he added.
“I would take it myself, absolutely.”
All AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics planned for tomorrow, Tuesday, April 13th, will be cancelled in light of updated guidance received from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, and @roinnslainte this evening. pic.twitter.com/rEibhq9nIw
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) April 12, 2021
Meanwhile, Prof Karina Butler, chair of Niac, said that the threat of the blood clot is “serious”.
She told RTÉ's Morning Ireland: “We have a very rare side-effect but with serious consequences, but on the other hand we have a disease that has a very high rate of death as well.
“Knowing how much disease is around the place, what the rates of this are, we are trying to find who might be at most at risk while trying to find a safe path through those risks and balance those risks as best as possible.
“We don’t want to raise any unnecessary risks.
“What we know from the EMA reports is that most of these cases have occurred in people under the age of 60.
“That could be influenced by the fact that there were a lot of healthcare workers under the age of 60 vaccinated.
“The UK had a tighter look at these events, they found that the risk increases as you go down the age groups.
“Younger people seem to be at greater risk than older people.”