People who refuse AstraZeneca will not be eliminated from rollout – HSE

Covid-19: About 120,000 ‘very high risk’ people have not received their first vaccine dose

People who refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine will not be eliminated from the rollout, but there are “no guarantees” about vaccine supplies downstream, the Health Service Executive’s vaccine programme lead has said.

Damien McCallion said a “very high” number of people have opted to take the vaccine when they were offered it.

People have examined the clinical advice and “can see the benefits” of the jab, he told RTÉ’s This Week radio programme on Sunday.

“If someone makes a decision at any point in time not to take a vaccine they are not eliminated from the programme.They can come back at a later stage.


However, he said there would be “no guarantees” they would be able to access a different vaccine to the one they were originally offered.

“The clinical advice at the moment is that the best vaccine is the vaccine that is offered to you now … we would encourage people obviously to inform themselves and make their own decision, but to look at that clinical advice that is there and look at the benefit that comes from vaccines,” Mr McCallion said.

The HSE’s chief executive Paul Reid confirmed on Sunday that more than 220,000 people aged 62 to 69 have registered to receive the AstraZeneca vacine, with over 90,000 appointments booked so far.

For some people who were not in a position to take the vaccine, perhaps because they were in a nursing home where there was an outbreak of the virus at the time, the HSE would ensure there is another pathway for them to be inoculated.

“We will always have a process to come back around to pick those people up,” he said.

Mr McCallion said “good progress” has been made in recent weeks in vaccinating people who are medically vulnerable.

More than 130,000 people who would be at very high risk of severe disease if they caught the coronavirus have been vaccinated through hospitals.

From next week GPs would join with vaccinating the remaining people who are very high risk, he said. There are about 120,000 very high risk people who have not received their first dose.

“Unfortunately we don’t have disease registers that would have made it easy to identify those people,” he said, adding that hospitals, GPs, disability services and other groups have been identifying people at risk.

He said people who are at high risk or very high risk did not need to contact their GP or the HSE as they will be contacted.

The HSE has had to re-adjust its plans for vaccinating these cohorts as it was originally anticipated that the AstraZeneca jab would be used.

It is still the HSE’s target that people who are very high risk will be fully vaccinated by the end of May and for vaccination of the high risk group to commence in early May. People at high risk should be fully vaccinated by around mid-June, while the small percentage of remaining people over the age of 70 should have received their first dose by early next week, he said.

Mr Reid said 95 per cent of people over 70 have received their first dose, while 214,000 have received their second dose.

“Strong week for the vaccination programme...More supplies [ARE]helping,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday. He said over 170,000 doses were given this week.

Some doses 42,750 doses were given on Friday, the “biggest day yet” in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said. One in 10 adults are now fully vaccinated, while almost quarter have received a first dose.

From Sunday people aged 62 were able to register for their jab, while 61-year-olds will be able to sign up from Monday. There are currently 26 vaccination centres in operation across the State, with four more due to open next week.

Meanwhile, latest figures show a rise of 12 in the number of people with the virus in hospitals on Sunday. There were 174 people with coronavirus in Irish hospitals on Sunday morning, of which 25 were in intensive care units. Seven days previously there were 45 patients in hospital with Covid-19 and 45 in intensive care.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter