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Increased concern among public about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine following NIAC decision, says Kelly

The Labour leader says clear advice and practical guidance by public health experts is needed now for the over 60s.

Kelly said the queries his office has received are varied and include those in the 60 to 70 cohort who may have a family history of stroke or clots.
Kelly said the queries his office has received are varied and include those in the 60 to 70 cohort who may have a family history of stroke or clots.
Image: RollingNews.ie

LABOUR LEADER ALAN Kelly has said he has been inundated with calls from people who are concerned about taking the AstraZeneca vaccine following yesterday’s NIAC decision.

NIAC has recommended that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine be given only to people aged over 60 after reports of rare blood clotting events emerged.

Those rare blood clotting events occur in 4-10 cases in every million AZ vaccine doses administered, in which one person may die.

The HSE has cancelled AstraZeneca vaccine appointments due from today onwards and is to consider how the announcement will affect the vaccine rollout over the coming days.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House this morning, he said the announcement has dramatically increased concern among the public. 

He said vaccine hesitancy is real and questioned whether the decision yesterday factored in what impact such an announcement would have on take-up. 

Kelly said he would advise anyone to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I would take AstraZeneca, whenever it’s offered to me,” he said. 

However, he said public health officials and the health minister had not done enough to reassure people, or to promote and push that all vaccines are safe.

He said the queries his office has received are varied and include those in the 60 to 70 cohort who may have a family history of stroke or clots.

They are asking how they notify the system to tell the health authorities they don’t want to take the AstraZeneca vaccine because of that history.

“That is a genuine concern to be fair,” said Kelly. 

He added that other people who have been in contact are just more hesitant about the vaccine in general, while the third category are people who have already got the first Astrazenaca vaccine and either want to take a second vaccine that’s not AstraZeneca, or they want to start again.

In all his conversations with people, Kelly said he has personally tried to reassure people that he believes the vaccination with AstraZeneca should continue on. 

When asked should there be a choice of vaccine for those people who are concerned, Kelly said: “I don’t see that as an offering.”

He said that may change in the months ahead, but added that we don’t appear to be at that juncture yet.

“I think we have to push on with the vaccines and get as many vaccines into the country, and into people’s arms as quickly as possible, but there needs to be a reassurance from public health officials and from the government that all the vaccines are safe.”

Two senior sources have said the chopping and changing of expert advice has become a problem, stating that some people are “frightened” by the recent coverage.

They acknowledged that the issue of vaccine hesitancy and people over 60 refusing the AstraZeneca vaccine will become an issue. 

They said it was early days, so how it is handled could “evolve” over time, but both said they would have no hesitation in taking the AstraZeneca jab.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Health Committee, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are always concerned about vaccine hesitancy and are aware of the need to maintain confidence in the programme. 

He said they have tried to be proactive in communicating the rationale behind decisions, such as yesterday’s announcement, stating that “safety comes first”.

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Glynn said that whilst he appreciates that some people will be concerned, some of the individual concerns could be addressed by GPs.

He said they are “not in a position to offer a choice” as NPHET stands over the safety and effectiveness of the cohort they have recommended for the vaccine. 

The chances of someone over 60 years of age dying of Covid is 85 times greater than that person dying from a blood clot caused by the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.

Glynn said he sympathises with peoples’ concerns, stating that he has no doubt that GPs are  fielding questions around concerns today, he added that those concerns do need to be addressed as opposed “going down an alternative route”.

 

He said NPHET is ruling out a choice, while accepting that there will be concerns from people that need to be addressed.

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