EU agency to rule on AstraZeneca vaccine safety today as row over supplies deepens

Resumption of administering of vaccines to high-risk people to not occur until next week

Any continued rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to high-risk people will not fully resume until next week, should the EU medicines watchdog clear safety concerns about the jab on Thursday.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to make a final decision on the safety of the vaccine after a handful of countries, including Ireland, Germany and Italy, paused its use due to a small number of people suffering blood clots following vaccination.

Should the EMA review confirm the vaccine’s safety, the HSE plans to begin immediate use of the vaccine, which was due to be administered this week to 30,000 healthcare workers and high-risk people aged between 16 and 69 with serious underlying health conditions.

Hospital Report

However, a HSE source said the rollout would not resume until well into next week as vaccine teams and stock supplies would have to be remobilised.



The logistics around distributing the vaccine and rebooking postponed appointments, along with scheduling planned vaccinations, will likely take some time to organise, though one health source said they did not expect any unnecessary delay in restarting the process.

Figures released by the Department of Health showed the State's heavy reliance on the AstraZeneca vaccine. It accounts for more than a quarter of the 758,490 vaccines delivered so far.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine accounted for a majority of the deliveries, or for just over two-thirds of vaccines delivered.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned the EU could restrict exports of vaccines outside the 27-nation bloc to deal with what she called the "crisis of the century" if the UK and the US did not reciprocate by allowing vaccines to flow to the EU.

She said there would be 360 million vaccines delivered from the four authorised vaccine manufacturers in the second quarter.

A spokesman for Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the figures were in line with what the Government had estimated in its deliveries in the three-month period. “We expect to receive an average of one million doses per month for April, May and June,” he said.

The targets remain dependent on vaccine manufacturers delivering on promised supply.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times