The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) will be asked to advise whether the gap between AstraZeneca doses of Covid vaccines could be shortened for those in the 60-70 age group.
Labour leader Alan Kelly called on the Government to consider reducing the 12-week gap over concerns regarding the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca jab after the first dose.
During Leaders’ Questions, Mr Kelly told the Dáil the Indian variant was spreading in Ireland and a number of people in the 60-70 age category had come to him worried about a lower level of protection against this variant.
“The particular concern that has been raised with me by many people over the last week or two is to do with those who are due to get their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, namely those in the 60-70 age cohort,” he said.
“The latest UK research data for this variant shows that two doses of AstraZeneca provide just under 60 per cent protection and for Pfizer 87.9 per cent.
“What is really worrying though is that the first dose of AstraZeneca only provides 30 per cent protection, according to this very credible UK study.
“And those who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine must wait at least 12 weeks to get their second dose.
“That’s three months, Minister,” Mr Kelly added.
He said it was a cause of “serious concern” to those in the 60-70 age group because they have the longest waiting time for a follow-up dose and are also at a greater risk of ending up in hospital due to the virus.
“Across the sea in the UK in order to tackle this concern, they have dropped their time from 12 weeks to eight weeks for the second dose of AstraZeneca,” he said.
Up to last of the last Friday there had been 73 cases of Indian variant diagnosed in Ireland.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who was taking Leaders’ Questions on Tuesday, said the figure had reached 128 on Monday.
“When it comes to what I understand is your suggestion that we alter the vaccine rollout programme for people in their 60s.
“We would have to defer to the public health advice,” he said.
“I’ll be honest and say I’d be slightly concerned that we minimise the level of changes, unless there’s a very clear public health argument in favour of it because the vaccination programme really is working now.
“One of the real difficulties they’ve had is constant changes in the rollout programme that makes it difficult for them, particularly with regards to the AstraZeneca vaccine because we know that is the one that’s been most variable in terms of delivery.
“So I will present the argument to the relevant experts but I can’t commit to taking up the advice,” Mr Ryan said.
His comments come as the Taoiseach said more than 2.5 million doses of Covid vaccine would be administered by the end of Tuesday.
Informed by @HSELive that 2.5 million doses of the #CovidVaccine will have been given out by the end of today.
A fantastic effort by all staff, volunteers and GPs involved in Ireland's vaccine rollout.
— Micheál Martin (@MichealMartinTD) May 25, 2021
Micheál Martin tweeted: “Informed by @HSELive that 2.5 million doses of the #CovidVaccine will have been given out by the end of today.
“A fantastic effort by all staff, volunteers and GPs involved in Ireland’s vaccine rollout.”
People between the ages of 45 and 69 are now eligible to register for a Covid vaccine through the HSE’s online portal.
As of May 11th, some 1,922,913 doses of Covid vaccines had been administered in the State. These included 1,408,105 first doses and 514,808 second doses.
The official data has not yet been updated because of the ongoing disruption to HSE IT systems caused by the recent cyberattack.