Ireland may ask other European countries to share stockpiled Covid-19 vaccines amid concern about the reliability of delivery commitments from manufacturer AstraZeneca in the coming months.
As The Irish Times reports, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has asked the vaccine taskforce to examine what “legitimate avenues” may be used to increase the Government’s options following reports of large numbers of AstraZeneca vaccines going unused in Germany, Italy and France.
Mr Donnelly on Thursday expressed serious concern about the reliability of AstraZeneca’s deliveries, saying its forecast for deliveries had changed three times in a week.
In the first use of the European Union’s controls on the export of vaccines made in the bloc, Italy yesterday blocked a shipment of 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine destined for Australia.
The Rome government refused an export permit and notified the European Commission, which did not object, officials said.
Mr Donnelly came under pressure in the Dáil to mandate the taskforce to unilaterally secure supplies amid growing concern from TDs and GPs about the pace of the rollout.
Lack of data
Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said the commission had said countries are free to make their own deals rather than awaiting deliveries through the EU system.
Mr Donnelly said “certainly if there are EU countries that do not want to use all of their AstraZeneca doses we will most certainly take them”.
There had been concern about a lack of data about the use of the AstraZeneca jab among older people but Mr Donnelly said “the emerging and ongoing evidence on AstraZeneca in the field is very positive”.
“If there are other supplies we can access certainly the taskforce will look to see what they may be.”
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee is currently examining evidence from UK studies which appear to show that the AstraZeneca jab is effective in older people.
Asked whether the committee was considering recommending the use of this vaccine in over-70s, chairwoman Prof Karina Butler said it was “keeping everything under review as [it] wishes for [the] most efficient, effective and safe rollout of vaccines given their tremendous potential impact”.
Pharmacists have asked the Government to ensure their staff, and not just pharmacists, are inoculated before mass vaccination begins from their outlets next month.