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HSE expects to use AstraZeneca vaccine for those aged 65-69

Over 4,000 over 85s have received their vaccine so far this week.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Updated Feb 18th 2021, 4:35 PM

THE HSE HAS said the AstraZeneca vaccine is likely to be used for the 65-69 age cohort when the vaccine rollout moves into that fifth phase.

The rollout of the vaccination to those aged over 85 started this week, with 66 people in that cohort receiving their first dose on Monday. The HSE has said over 4,000 of the 85+ age group were vaccinated up to close of business yesterday.

Only the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being used for those aged over 70 in the current phase of the rollout after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) stated there was insufficient evidence about efficacy in those aged over 55.

However he EMA still recommended its use in all adults, including those over 70. 

Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee issued guidance stating that the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines should be used for those aged over 70, where possible.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently being used for frontline healthcare workers and the programme will soon move into the next cohort; up to 30,000 other healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact. 

After that, those aged 65-69 will be next to receive their vaccine and the HSE has indicated the AstraZeneca vaccine will be used for this group.

Up to 15 February, Ireland received 350,310 vaccine doses in total, with 280,581 of those administered. Ireland is due to receive a further 403,428 doses from AztraZeneca before the end of March.

 ”The 65-69-year-olds, there are about 190,000 and we’re working on the assumption that we’ll be giving [them] the AstraZeneca vaccine,” Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said today.

Henry said this vaccine will also likely be used as part of the seventh phase, for those aged 18-64 with medical conditions that put them at high risk.

He said NIAC may choose to give further guidance on the use of this vaccine.

“We are planning as if it’s going to be the AstraZeneca vaccine. But of course depending on any nuancing of the existing framework and advice on the most appropriate vaccine, we’re prepared for alternatives.”

He acknowledged that there was insufficient evidence on efficacy in those aged over 55 but he said “the absence of evidence doesn’t mean there’s no effect”. 

“It’s reasonable, as has been said by different regulatory agencies, to extrapolate from the evidence that exists for younger age groups, but it just isn’t there in a robust enough way at the moment,” he said.

Up to 15 February, 182,193 people received their first dose of vaccines against Covid-19 and 98,388 have received their second dose. 

Next week 36,000 first doses will be administered to those aged over 85, including 26,000 Pfizer doses and 10,000 Moderna doses.

There will also be 11,900 vaccinations at longterm residential care facilities next week as well as 62,000 doses administered to frontline healthcare workers. 

Hospitalisations

There are 771 people with Covid-19 in hospitals across Ireland today, as numbers continue to fall. 

The number of patients in an ICU is also falling, with 148 in intensive care. There are also 200 Covid patients receiving advanced respiratory care on wards. 

St James’s Hospital in Dublin has the most number of patients with Covid-19 – with 98 people currently hospitalised. It’s followed by Connolly (67) and Beaumont (56). Outside Dublin, Mayo had the most number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 at 43.

HSE CEO Paul Reid earlier urged people to “take care” as positivity rates among close contacts indicate high transmission levels of the B117 (UK) variant. 

“Weekly positivity rate from testing has reduced again to 5.4%. More progress,” he said. 

“However, positivity rates for close contacts is at 25% & for household contacts it’s at 33%. This indicates the high transmission levels of the current B117 (UK) variant. So take care.”

Last evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said that 57 further deaths had been reported in people with Covid-19 in Ireland, along with 650 new cases.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the situation remains precarious as almost 90% of cases in Ireland are the B117 variant. 

“The increased transmissibility of this variant is apparent in the current profile of the disease in households, with one in three household contacts of a confirmed case testing positive for Covid-19,” he said. 

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Screenshot 2021-02-18 at 12.27.19 Source: HPSC

Meanwhile, Cabinet signed off on strict new mandatory quarantine measures for all arrivals from 20 countries.

It also applies to passengers who arrive in Ireland with no negative PCR test with them.

Legislation is expected to be brought before the Dail and the Seanad next week, before it comes into effect in March. Opposition TDs have said the legislation is “full of holes” as it only applies to certain countries when there are different Covid-19 variants present in other countries.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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