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EMA decision on Johnson & Johnson will influence whether Ireland spaces out Pfizer vaccine doses

It follows concerns that the vaccine could be linked to extremely rare blood clots.

Image: Shutterstock/Studio Romantic

Updated Apr 20th 2021, 2:28 PM

THE EUROPEAN MEDICINES Agency (EMA) is expected to rule on the safety of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Covid-19 vaccine today.

It follows concerns that the vaccine could be linked to extremely rare blood clots, with the US having paused the use of the jab to investigate a link between its administration to patients and clotting events.

The EMA is due to hold a press conference about its ruling from Amsterdam at 4pm Irish-time, with Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC)  among those who will be paying close attention.  

The Irish government may consider increasing the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine in order to provide some protection to a greater number of people

This decision will be affected by the availability of over vaccines, with such a move perhaps not required if the single-dose J&J jab is given the green light. 

Ireland is due to receive over 600,000 doses of the J&J vaccine before the end of June. 

Speaking after today’s Cabinet meeting, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the vaccine programme was not on today’s agenda as public health experts await the EMA’s J&J decision.  

When it comes to the vaccine programme, there’s no change to be made to the vaccine programme today. NIAC and our health and science experts want to wait until we get a decision on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the EMA for contemplating any further changes to the vaccine programme. But suffice to say that people who’ve already received their first dose will receive their second doses as planned.

 

Varadkar added that while no decision has been made as yet, there are “pros and cons” to the option of spacing out vaccine doses. 

Cases

The EMA’s update today comes after the agency reviewed four cases – one of which was fatal – of rare clots which were reported among people who got the vaccine.

However, the agency said the total number of clots is “extremely small” compared to the 4.5 million doses of the vaccine which have been administered to people worldwide.

That comparison echoes the comments by top US pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci, who described the clots as “an extraordinarily rare event”.

Fauci said on Sunday that he believed the US would resume use of the jab, possibly with some restrictions or warnings.

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The J&J vaccine concerns follow similar reports of blood clots in a very small number of people who received the AstraZeneca shot.

The EMA described those clots as a “very rare” side effect, stressing that the AstraZeneca jab’s benefits outweigh the risks.

The leaders of Europe are keen to accelerate vaccinations and expand availability after facing intense criticism over a sluggish rollout and with the public desperate for a return to some degree of normality.

The US is also expected to announce its decision on the single-shot vaccine by Friday, as nations around the world try to accelerate their rollouts and revive their pandemic-ravaged economies.

With reporting by- © AFP 2021

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