The first round of Covid-19 vaccinations for thousands of vulnerable patients will not be completed until “well into April” as a result of the decision to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, it has emerged.
As The Irish Times reports, The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which last week began an investigation into reports of blood clotting in people who had received the vaccine, meets on Tuesday to review the evidence and is due to announce a decision on Thursday.
With France, Germany, Italy and Spain on Monday following Ireland’s example by temporarily suspending use of the vaccine, Irish officials are working on contingency arrangements in case the EMA decides to pause or vary the existing authorisation.
Options are being examined to deal with the logistical fallout of the suspension of AstraZeneca, which is due to make up 20 per cent of second-quarter supplies.
Even this week’s pause in the use of the vaccine means some of those who have conditions that place them at high risk will not get their first dose until next month, according to Dr Colm Henry, HSE chief clinical officer.
He said the impact of the delay would mean “the completion of first doses for category four [would happen] well into April."
Category four includes those with cancer, chronic diseases, the immunocompromised and those with Down syndrome, among other conditions.
The target of vaccinating 10,000 medically vulnerable people last week was missed by about half partially due to the suspension, with a further 20,000 appointments now pushed back this week.
Some healthcare workers who had been due to receive AstraZeneca will also face delays.
On Monday, the Psychiatric Nurses Association said it was worried the suspension could affect residents in mental health facilities and the timetable for completing vaccination of its workers by the end of March may now be missed.
Sources involved in the rollout said any advice from the EMA would also have to be incorporated into a restarted programme, including extra screening or patient evaluation that may be stipulated.