AstraZeneca vaccine not to be used in over-70s

Not enough data available - NIAC
  • Deborah Condon

The High-Level Taskforce on COVID-19 Vaccination is now "working through the operational implications" of not providing the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 70 in Ireland.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency last week for use in all adults over the age of 18. This vaccine was originally considered a "game changer", partly because it is easier to transport and store compared to the other two available vaccines, making it easier to rollout within communities.

It was to be given to older people in the community by GPs in the coming weeks.

However, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has now recommended that the two mRNA vaccines that are currently available - Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna - should be used in those over the age of 70 "where practicable and timely".

A number of other EU countries have also decided to only use these two vaccines for their older populations.

"The chief medical officer has reviewed the NIAC's recommendations and has advised the Minister for Health, who has accepted the recommendations provided.

"The expert advice to the Minister recognised that currently there is limited data on the AstraZeneca vaccine in relation to older age groups. Those aged over 70 are a key priority group for protection because of their greater risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19," the Department of Health said.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland show on Thursday morning, the chairperson of the NIAC, Prof Karina Butler, said that there simply is not enough data on the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in older age groups. There is "more data" in relation to the other two vaccines.

She said that if there was no other vaccine available, the AstraZeneca vaccine would be given to older people as it is a "good vaccine". However, there was "just not enough data" in the older age groups "when we had another choice".

Following NIAC's recommendation, Minister Donnelly said that the rollout of community vaccinations to the over-70 age group "will begin as planned this month starting with those aged 85 and older".

The High-Level Taskforce on COVID-19 Vaccination must now figure out how this will be achieved.


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