AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to under 70s only despite WHO recommendation

ireland
A member of staff prepares a dose of the Astrazeneca vaccine, © PA Wire/PA Images
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The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) said the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine will only be administered to adults under the age of 70 as planned, despite the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommending it for all adults over 18.

A lack of data regarding the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine among older people led the NIAC to opt against giving the jab to people over 70, deciding instead to continue using the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna shots.

The AstraZeneca vaccine, which is easier to distribute as it does not need to be stored at low temperatures, is instead being used immunise frontline healthcare workers, the National Ambulance Service and the Dublin Fire Brigade.

The WHO published a report citing the information behind their recommendation, but the NIAC said the findings were largely similar to that of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on which their original decision not to use the AstraZeneca shot for over 70s was based.

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For this reason, Professor Karina Butler, chair of the NIAC, said their advice has not changed.

"The [WHO study] efficacy rates were broadly similar as had been reported by the EMA, with overall efficacy for the AstraZeneca vaccine reported at 63 per cent. At the EMA, it came out at 59 per cent, so there's not real difference," Prof Butler said.

"It was welcome to see the report, by there was nothing in it that was substantially different," she added.

Prof Butler's comments followed news that Ireland is now ranked third highest in the EU in terms of vaccine rollout per 100 people.

Speaking at the HSE's weekly press conference, chief executive Paul Reid said there is a very “exciting” week ahead in terms of the volume and mix of jabs that are now being administered.

Mr Reid confirmed 243,000 doses have now been administered in the State, including 154,900 first doses and 88,453 second doses.

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