IRELAND is set to suspend use of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for anyone under the age of 60 following recommendation from the National immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
The body, which oversees the Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme in the Republic, said that the vaccine's benefits may vary by age and that, as other vaccines are available, it has revised its vaccine recommendations.
NIAC also advised that all AstraZeneca vaccination appointments planned for Tuesday should now be cancelled, and that anyone with very high or high risk of severe Covid-19 should avoid the jab.
It also states:
- Those aged 60 and older should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as scheduled.
- Those aged under 60 years with a very high risk or high-risk medical condition should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as scheduled.
- Those aged under 60 years without a very high risk or high-risk medical condition should have the scheduled interval between doses extended to 16 weeks to allow further assessment of the benefits and risks as more evidence becomes available.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed on Monday evening that the Government was not about to "reject clear clinical advice" and that the suspension would take effect immediately.
As such, an alternative vaccination plan will have to be mapped out to make up for the imminent shortfall of doses. An announcement is expected on Thursday from the Government.
Minister Donnelly said the cornerstone of the vaccination programme is "safety first" and if operational changes were recommended by NIAC, the Government would accept them.
"They've given guidance previously on various vaccines and age groups and that has all been implemented," Donnelly said.
"It comes at a big operational challenge, there's no question about it, but the State has stood up to that challenge each time."
It comes following the news that the UK has suspended use of the AstraZeneca for under-30-year-olds, with medicine regulators recommending that anyone in this age bracket seek alternative vaccines.