Niac gives go ahead for AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines to be used for under-40s

Advisory body has also said gap between AstraZeneca doses can be cut to four weeks

Niac has said that AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines can be used for the under-40s. File photograph: Luong Thai Linh/EPA

Niac has said that AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines can be used for the under-40s. File photograph: Luong Thai Linh/EPA

 

The advisory body on the State’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout has said that AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines can be used for the under-40s.

The Irish Times understands that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has also said that the gap between doses of the AstraZeneca jab can be cut in half from eight to four weeks.

The use of both vaccines is currently limited to the over-50s, but their use for younger groups could speed up the rollout amid the threat of the more highly transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.

It comes ahead of a Government decision on whether or not indoor services in restaurants and pubs can resume from July 5th.

The Niac advice on the vaccines is to be considered alongside recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) as senior Government Ministers meet later on Monday night to discuss the next phase of reopening.

Nphet – which has been meeting on Monday to discuss the current Covid situation ahead of delivering advice to Government – is expected to be “pessimistic” in its modelling of the progression of the virus.

The Government has been under pressure from the hospitality industry to decide on whether the reopening planned to take place from July 5th will actually go ahead, as restaurants and pubs are left with massive uncertainty over whether to order stock or bring back staff in time for that date.

In recent days it had been widely expected in Government that a postponement is on the cards due to concerns over the Delta variant, with two weeks thought to be the likely period of postponement.

That would allow for people in their 60s to have their vaccinations completed fully, as well as coinciding with the planned reopening of non-essential international travel on July 19th.

‘Not inevitable’

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Monday that it’s “not inevitable” that the resumption of indoor services in restaurants and pubs will be delayed beyond July 5th, while also suggesting that if there is a postponement, a longer one might be necessary, citing one expert who suggested that a short pause in the reopening plans would only reduce cases by 10 per cent.

Mr Varadkar stressed that nothing is inevitable because no decisions have been made.

The Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee is due to meet late on Monday night to consider Nphet’s advice.

One senior source did not rule out the possibility that the Niac recommendation on vaccines for the under-40s could help with the reopening of indoor services in restaurants and pubs, though the source was also non-committal, saying: “Vaccines help with a lot of things.”

A final decision on the matter is not expected until tomorrow morning, with the full Cabinet due to convene at 9am.