Labour leader critical of delay in deciding on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Kelly also notes ‘failure ’ to address concerns of women over the CervicalCheck Tribunal

Labour leader Alan Kelly has expressed concern at the length of time being taken to decide on the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland.

He said every day in the vaccine rollout is “precious” and the Government needs to know the conditions under which it will be used as it decides what Covid-19 restrictions can be eased in the months ahead.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has said it will not be making any recommendations on the use of the vaccine until next week.

Their deliberations come after the Johnson & Johnson jab was linked to rare blood clots.

The Government is due to make decisions on the scope of any lifting of restrictions in May towards the end of next week.

Mr Kelly said the advisory committee also needs to make a recommendation on whether or not to increase the length of time between vaccine doses which may speed up the rollout. He said he’s concerned at the length of time it is taking to address this and the Johnson & Johnson issue.

He said it’s a “legitimate question” because “every day is precious. Every day affects the vaccine rollout. Every day affects the decisions of government as regards what they can and cannot open.” He said the advisory committee’s recommendation on these vaccine issues is “critical” for the reopening decisions.

Mr Kelly said the Government need to find out why the advisory committee’s considerations are taking so long. He expressed doubt that the Government’s target of 82 per cent of adults being vaccinated by the end of June will be met but said he hopes it is.

He separately hit out at Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly for giving "incorrect" information to the Dáil.

On Thursday Mr Donnelly told the Dáil that the European Commission had initiated a legal case against AstraZeneca over what he said was the company's "complete failure to meet its delivery contractual agreements for April, May and June" in relation to vaccines to be provided to EU countries.

The commission later said a decision to launch legal action against the company has not been taken “at this point in time”.

CervicalCheck Tribunal

The Labour leader also noted a report in the Examiner which outlined how just three women have lodged claims with the CervicalCheck Tribunal which has cost €2.5 million to set up.

He claimed the tribunal will be “an expensive waste of time. We’ve spent €2.5 million on a tribunal where three people have applied and I don’t see many more applying afterwards. Everyone else is going through the courts. Ultimately, it is a failure of Government to address the concerns of women who have been disgracefully treated in this country.”

Mr Kelly was speaking as he announced plans for a Labour Bill that will outline a strategy for providing services for people with autism.