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AstraZeneca rollout resumes in Ireland after pause as EU threatens company with export ban

The European Medicines Agency reviewed the AstraZeneca vaccine and has concluded that it is safe and effective.

Image: Shutterstock/javi_indy

Updated Mar 20th 2021, 7:16 PM

THE ROLLOUT OF the AstraZeneca vaccine is resuming in Ireland today after a precautionary pause during the week.

The resumption of AstraZeneca follows a decision by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) yesterday evening after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave the vaccine the green light, paving the way for its return.

AstraZeneca was paused in Ireland on a precautionary basis last weekend after a small number of blood clotting events were reported internationally in people who had received the vaccine.

The EMA reviewed the vaccine and has concluded that it is safe and effective.

Head of the EMA Emer Cooke said the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.

However, the EMA “cannot rule out definitively a link between these cases and the vaccine”, and its safety committee has decided to point to the possible rare conditions by including details within the vaccine’s leaflets.

“The scientific conclusions adopted today provide member states with the information they need to take an informed decision regarding the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in their vaccination campaigns.”

The European Commission has said AstraZeneca could face export bans to countries outside the the EU if it does not speed up its delivery of doses that were agreed on.

President Ursula von der Leyen said that the commission has the option to ban planned exports.

“This is a message to AstraZeneca: You fulfil your part of the deal toward Europe before you start to deliver to other countries,” Von der Leyen said. 

Speaking to German media group Funke, Von der Leyen said the contract between the EU and AstraZeneca sets out the number of vaccines the EU receives from the company’s plants inside the EU and in the UK, but that “we didn’t get anything from the British while we are delivering vaccines to them”.

The commission has sent a “formal reminder” to AstraZeneca, she said.

With the resumption of AstraZeneca in Ireland, the HSE is advising people in the current cohort of high risk who are invited for a vaccine appointment to attend and receive the vaccine as soon as is if offered to them, unless they have an acute illness with a fever or have had Covid-19 or another vaccine in the last four weeks or two weeks respectively.

Professor Karina Butler of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee said that “the safety of vaccines is paramount” and “the public should be reassured by the swift and thorough investigations into a very small number of serious but very rare adverse events.”

“Because Covid-19 can be so serious and is so widespread, the EMA found that the benefits of this vaccine outweigh the risks of these very rare events,” Butler siad.

“The public should be reassured by the fact that over 20 million doses of this vaccine have been given in the EEA and the UK providing protection to those who have received it,” she said.

“We are seeing that the rate of infections and hospitalisations are beginning to reduce amongst those who are vaccinated. The best vaccine that anyone can received is the one that they can get soonest.”

As of Tuesday, 463,500 first doses have been administered in Ireland and 168,859 second doses.

Most of these – over 483,000 – have been doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

19,900 Moderna vaccines have been administered, and 129,000 from AstraZeneca.

Chief executive of the HSE Paul Reid has said that 3,700 over-75s are due to receive a vaccine at the Helix over the weekend.

“This morning, as we recommence the AstraZeneca vaccine, our plan to protect some of the most vulnerable also continues,” Reid said.

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“Today and tomorrow, 3,700 over 75-year-olds, patients of GPs, will receive either first [or] second doses in the Helix vaccination centre,” he said. 

In hospitals, there are 328 patients with Covid-19, including 83 in ICU as of 11am this morning.

27 people with a confirmed case were admitted to hospital in the last 24 hours and 34 were discharged.

Additional reporting by the Press Association

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