June vaccine target ‘impossible’ if Janssen jab not approved for under-60s

covid-vaccine
June Vaccine Target ‘Impossible’ If Janssen Jab Not Approved For Under-60S
Leo Varadkar said the vaccination programme was being 'constrained' by factors out of the Government’s control. Photo: PA
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By Michelle Devane, PA

The Government’s target of vaccinating 80 per cent of people by the end of June would be “extremely difficult if not impossible” if the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not approved for people under the age of 60, the Tánaiste said.

Leo Varadkar said if the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) advises against the use of the vaccine in that age cohort in Ireland it would knock 600,000 doses of vaccines “off the plan”.

“If the decision was made it would make it extremely difficult if not impossible to meet the target,” Mr Varadkar told RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime programme.

“It would mean we would have four vaccines we can use on the over-60s, and only two in the under-60s. One is Moderna which is a very small company and a very limited supply, so that would knock 600,000 doses off the plan.”

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He added: “If we’re down 600,000 doses that would then knock you back by about two to three weeks.”

Mr Varadkar described the vaccination programme as being “roughly on schedule” but said it was being “constrained by some factors that are out of our control”.

He added if the State receives enough supplies it will meet the weekly target of 250,000 doses being administered.

Vaccine targets

The Fine Gael leader’s comments come after the HSE chief executive said more than 150,000 vaccinations will be administered next week but he would not confirm whether they will reach the Government’s target of 250,000.

Paul Reid said it would all depend on the delivery of supplies of the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and the decision by the Niac on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“It’s going to be over 150,000. That’s what we’re targeting but I can’t give specifics,” he told the HSE weekly Covid-19 update briefing.

“It will hugely depend on the Niac decision.”

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Mr Reid added: “It’s going to be over 150,000. I can’t give you a definitive number but it will be our best week yet.”

On Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the target of administering 250,000 doses of vaccine weekly from next week had not changed.

Niac is due to make a decision next week on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the European Medicines Agency concluded that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks of unusual blood clotting as a very rare side-effect.

Last week, Niac ruled that the under-60s should not be given the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a similar rare blood clotting issue.

Mr Varadkar has urged Niac to allow the Johnson & Johnson jab to be given to people under the age of 60.

Covid transmission

The health service boss told the weekly HSE Covid-19 briefing that Ireland is still seeing “concerning” levels of transmission of coronavirus, despite the country being in a “much better place” than earlier this year.

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Mr Reid warned continued vigilance is needed in tandem with the rollout of the State’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“We continue to see many improvements and signs in many of the key measures including a reduction in the 14-day incidence rate compared to the previous week by 14 per cent,” Mr Reid said.

“Having said all of that we are still seeing concerning levels of transmission across the country.

“The continued vigilance of the public is still needed in tandem with the vaccination programme.”

Mr Reid said a total of 148,000 people aged between 65 and 69 had registered for the Covid-19 vaccine through the online portal since last week.

People aged between 60 and 64 will be able to register online for a Covid-19 vaccination from Friday.

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