Ireland to receive first AstraZeneca vaccines from February 8th

ireland
Ireland To Receive First Astrazeneca Vaccines From February 8Th Ireland To Receive First Astrazeneca Vaccines From February 8Th
The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine. Photo: PA Wire/PA Images
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Reuters and Press Association

Ireland will receive its first shots of AstraZeneca and Oxford University's Covid-19 vaccine during the week beginning February 8th after its approval by Europe's medicines regulator, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said.

“The contract was to get it on the week of February 15th but I can confirm now for the first time that it's been agreed that we'll get it in the week of February 8th,” Mr Donnelly told Newstalk.

He added that the State's regulators will decide in a few days if the vaccine should be given to people over the age of 65 after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded there were not yet enough results for those aged over 55 to determine how well the vaccine would work for this group.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is considered particularly important as it is easier to store and transport than the Pfizer or Moderna jabs.

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However, problems with the supply of the AstraZeneca jab means that Ireland can now expect a total of 1.1 million vaccine doses to be delivered by the end of March, rather than the original 1.4 million.

It means that 550,000 people can be vaccinated in that period – about 150,000 fewer than the Government’s 700,000 target.

Prof Brian MacCraith told an Oireachtas committee on Friday that there is no certainty over the supply of vaccines from April onwards.

He said he expected the drop in the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to be a 50 per cent reduction in the next two months.

But he added that those figures may change again depending on the outcome of the negotiations between AstraZeneca and the European Commission, and depending on deliveries of other vaccines.

As of January 27th, a total of 161,500 vaccines have been administered to long-term care home residents and staff and frontline healthcare workers in the State.

Not a 'magic wand'

Speaking after the Oxford/AstraZeneca approval on Friday, EMA executive director Emer Cooke said more hard work is needed to develop vaccines and treatments to beat the pandemic.

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She said: “We now have three vaccines that have been developed and recommended for approval against a disease that we did not know about one year ago. None of them is perfect.

“None of them has all the characteristics that we might want it to, to help us, to allow us to move completely forward.

“None of them is a magic wand on its own but together they provide tools and options to prevent different aspects of the disease.”

There had been concerns the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine might be limited, after German public health officials ruled out its use in people over the age of 65.

The EMA said that while the dataset of that age group who took part in clinical trials was small, “protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines”.

Ms Cooke said: “The recommendation to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine is based on data that shows the vaccine offers protection against Covid-19, with a reassuring safety profile.”

She said the AstraZeneca vaccine is easier to handle than the other mRNA-based vaccines in terms of transport and storage.

“This should simplify the logistics of rolling the vaccine out across the EU, and hopefully can provide a boost to vaccinations in the member states,” she added.

The Irish-born executive director of the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke. Photo: PA Media

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The approval has come amid an ongoing row between the EU and AstraZeneca over the promised delivery schedule of the vaccines.

On Friday, Ms Cooke reminded the pharma-giant that approval comes with “legally binding obligations”.

AstraZeneca has been asked by the EMA to conduct trials to determine its effectiveness against other variants of Covid-19.

Ms Cooke said work will continue on approval for other vaccines and treatments.

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