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Spare AstraZeneca vaccines may be given to younger age groups due to Delta concerns - Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there is engagement with NIAC over this consideration.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said that AstraZeneca vaccine doses could be administered to younger age cohorts in July and July due to “excess” doses being available. 

At present, the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is not recommended for people under the age of 50 but Varadkar said today that engagement is underway with the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) about whether this could change.

The Tánaiste was today asked about a decision in the Netherlands this week to open up the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to people aged over 18 on an opt-in basis. 

He said that Ireland does not have the excess stock of J&J jabs to provide this access but that it will soon have “hundreds and thousands” of AstraZeneca vaccines available after older age groups have received two doses. 

“We do have excess AstraZeneca vaccines, we may over the course of the next couple of weeks have hundreds of thousands of excess AZ vaccines and it would be a shame not to use them,” he said. 

There is some engagement ongoing with health authorities, with NIAC, now as to whether we could offer those excess AstraZeneca vaccines in June and July to people in those younger cohorts, at least giving them some protection soon rather than having to wait for protection later.

The HSE said last week that there are 450,000 people awaiting a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and that they will receive it by 19 July. 

Varadkar said the AstraZeneca vaccine doses arriving in the next couple of weeks “are more than we need” to complete those second doses and that there will then be AstraZeneca vaccines “that we can’t use”. 

He added that “there is engagement” to see if they can then be used for 18-year-olds “if that’s advised by NIAC”.

Varadkar said that this consideration to vaccinate younger age groups with AstraZeneca is driven by concern over the Covid-19 Delta variant. 

“There is concern now about a fourth wave driven by the Delta variant and that does change the picture a bit, giving people vaccines that we have to give them some protection might be a better option,” he said. 

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