AZ vaccination for 60-69s to finish weeks earlier than expected, Taoiseach says

Alan Kelly says it is ‘ridiculous’ that inoculation of some of most the vulnerable taking so long

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, responding to a Dáil question from Labour leader Alan Kelly, has said that the administration of second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people in their sixties will be completed three-to-four weeks early.

 

The administration of second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those in the 60-69 age cohort will be completed three to four weeks earlier than expected, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

He said that “what was to take nine weeks will now be compressed into five weeks” in terms of providing second doses to that group.

Mr Martin also said in the Dáil that the latest information from Public Health England was that the AstraZeneca vaccine proved to be 90 per cent effective against hospitalisation or death from Covid-19.

Mr Martin was responding to Labour leader Alan Kelly, who raised concerns of some aged 60-69 who have received a first AstraZeneca shot and were scheduled to have a 12-week interval before their second.

He said this would leave them weeks behind some younger people in being inoculated amid concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Mr Kelly said that the 60-69 age group was vulnerable and with their second dose they would then have 80 per cent protection against the variant.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) last month recommended the interval be reduced from 12 weeks to eight weeks.

AstraZeneca was not recommended for those under 50 or over 70, resulting in some 460,000 people predominantly in the 60-69 age cohort receiving the jab.

Finishing earlier

Mr Martin said the HSE was dealing with the issue and “basically we’ll be finishing the second dose of AstraZeneca three to four weeks earlier than would have been the case”.

He also indicated that there are no plans to offer an alternative vaccine as a second dose to those who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca.

“We’ve learned that once you start changing, you start getting mixed signals. It can disrupt the vaccination programme and it can genuinely undermine…and affect people’s take-up,” he said.

Niac is yet to advise on the merits of mixing vaccines and is awaiting publication of a study on the matter due in the next fortnight.

Mr Kelly who has raised issues around AstraZeneca a number of times in the Dáil said he had been “inundated” about it since he first highlighted the matter.

“There is deep intergenerational concern - grandchildren worried about their grandparents, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews worried about their parents.”

They were concerned particularly because a British study showed that “if you have a first dose of AstraZeneca you’re about 33 per cent inoculated against the Delta variant” and this left “a huge risk for these people”.

Mr Kelly said people had been waiting weeks for action and “it is ridiculous that younger people are being fully vaccinated”.

“It’s ridiculous that these people are at the end, that the oldest group in the country have yet to be fully vaccinated.”

He said they “cannot travel, cannot actually do everything that everyone else” will be able to do because the vaccine bonus does not apply to them

Protetcion

Telling the Tipperary TD that the vaccine rollout would speed up for the 60-69, Mr Martin added that the advice was that once double vaccinated with AstraZeneca, recipients would actually have 90 per cent protection against infection with the disease.

He said that vaccine programme was going well with close to 50 per cent of the population having received their first dose and 27 per cent fully vaccinated.

Mr Martin said the vaccine programme has worked on the basis that people have received vaccines as soon as they were available.

Mr Kelly also said he had received a lot of reports in relation to the Janssen vaccine being administered by pharmacies and not enough people coming in to use up all the vials. He called on the Taoiseach to have that looked at to ensure that vaccines were not wasted. Mr Martin said he would have the matter examined.