Use of J&J jab for under-50s would avoid waste of vaccines – Taoiseach

Use of single-shot vaccine had been limited to over-50s by Niac due to blood clot concerns

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) jab for under-50s would ensure “maximum utilisation” of all vaccines and it’s a measure he would support.

It comes after Mr Martin himself got a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The J&J vaccine was recommended for use in the over-50s by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) amid links to very rare blood clots in younger age groups.

Hospital Report

However, the Government is reviewing HSE proposals for changes in the vaccination programme which would include use of the J&J vaccines for younger people.

Mr Martin said he’s “a bit relieved” and “very quietly pleased” to have gotten his first vaccination dose.

He was asked by RTÉ Radio's Brendan O'Connor for his view on the HSE pushing for a lower age limit on the J&J vaccine.

Mr Martin said: “We want every vaccine used.”

He said Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan is engaging with Niac on the matter but he added: "I think it would ensure the maximum utilisation of all vaccines that we have, that none would go to waste and also that we would protect people faster and get as many people protected as we possibly can from the virus so I hope it works out, and it's something that I would support."

Mr Martin also said that more than 220,000 vaccines may have been administered in the last week by close of business on Sunday.

He said the HSE are “looking at doing between 250 to 270,000 doses next week. So that’s a very much accelerated programme of vaccination”.

Mr Martin was asked if 450,000 vaccinations per week will be happening in June and if the programme is still on track to meet a target of 80 per cent of adults being inoculated by the end of that month.

The Taoiseach said a lot depends on the HSE’s proposals on the rollout.

He said: "We're broadly on target and that's the operational model that the HSE... and the Department of Health are getting advice on that, and that would certainly make for an optimal outcome in terms of the end of June."

Mr Martin predicted a “a significant psychological uplift” this week as reopening continues from Monday, including a return of hairdressers and barbers and people getting back to work in retail.

He said: “I think people are streetwise now... and they know what to do and what not to do.

“I think that sort of adherence to the basic guidelines is still vital to ensure that we keep on track and we don’t go backwards.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times