Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that vaccinating young people with spare AstraZeneca doses could slow the spread of the Delta coronavirus variant.
Mr Varadkar confirmed he wants to see the vaccine used on the cohort in which the variant is most prevalent, namely people in their late teens and early 20s, according to The Irish Times.
However, he said it could not happen for “a couple of weeks” at the earliest and he does not know when the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) would be in a position to approve such a change to the rollout strategy.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, along with the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, is currently restricted to use in those over the age of 50 after it was linked to rare but serious blood clots most common in younger people.
‘Hundreds of thousands’ of spares
Mr Varadkar said on Wednesday morning that there may be “hundreds of thousands” of spare AstraZeneca vaccines available in coming weeks after the State has administered second doses of it to those aged over 60.
Asked if the spares could be quickly deployed in those aged over 18 to slow the spread of the Delta variant, Mr Varadkar agreed.
“It would be a shame not to use them,” he said.
Other European countries such as the Netherlands have opened up their adenovirus vaccine stocks to those aged over 18 on an opt-in basis.
The adenovirus AstraZeneca vaccine provides less protection against symptomatic infection with the Delta variant than the mRNA vaccine from Pfizer.
Mr Varadkar said the Government still had no revised delivery date for the bulk of the 600,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines originally due to arrive by the end of June.
Only a small fraction of the delivery have arrived and are currently being administered in pharmacies only to those aged over 50.
“There are no spare Johnson and Johnson vaccines. But there will, potentially, be hundreds of thousands of spare AstraZeneca ones in a couple of weeks,” he said.