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Health Minister confirms wait between AstraZeneca doses to be reduced from twelve weeks to eight

It’s hoped that the change will allow more people to be vaccinated sooner, but the exact timing depends on supply of the vaccine.

Image: Shutterstock

THE WAIT BETWEEN receiving each dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is to be reduced from 12 weeks to eight, the Minister for Health has confirmed.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed that the interval between the two doses will be reduced by a third following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

For people receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19, this means the second dose can be given eight weeks after the first, instead of the 12 weeks that was set out under previous guidance.

It’s hoped that the change will allow more people to be vaccinated sooner, but the exact timing depends on supply of the vaccine.

NIAC advised earlier this week that the doses could be given eight weeks apart, with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan sending a letter to the HSE after the recommendation.

Donnelly met with HSE chief executive Paul Reid and chair of the vaccine programme’s high-level taskforce, Professor Brian MacCraith, to discuss the NIAC advice.

In a statement, Donnelly said that the “reduction in the length of the interval between doses of this vaccine will benefit in excess of 400,000 people who are waiting on a second dose and who will now get the protection of being fully vaccinated earlier”.

“This will be phased in – the coming fortnight will see those who are due their vaccine as part of a 12 week schedule, receive their second dose of vaccine,” Donnelly said.

“We will then implement a graduated reduction so the interval will reduce to 11, 10, 9 and then 8 weeks.”

The exact timing is contingent on supplies received from the company, the statement said.

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“Right now we only have confirmed volumes for the next two weeks,” Donnelly said.

“I’ve spoken with the company, while there has also been contact with them from the Taoiseach and the taskforce in recent days to emphasise the urgency and importance of contracted supplies arriving as agreed,” he said.

NIAC’s advice set out that people of any age who were not previously infected with Covid-19 should receive their second dose between eight to 12 weeks after the first dose.

For people under the age of 50 who are immunocromprised and who were infected with Covid-19 within nine months before their first dose, NIAC advised that a second dose is not required and that people in this group can be considered fully protected 15 days after their first dose.

As of 11 May – the last update on the Covid-19 hub prior to the ransomware attack on the HSE – 553,304 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine had been administered in Ireland.

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