50,000 register for Covid-19 vaccine as GPs ask people not to call for AstraZeneca advice

67 year olds can be registered tomorrow followed by 66 year olds on Sunday and 65 year olds from Monday.

LAST UPDATE | Apr 16th 2021, 3:48 PM

ABOUT 50,000 PEOPLE have registered for their Covid-19 vaccine online since the portal went live yesterday, as the roll-out to the 65-69 age group continues. 

More than 30,000 people aged 69 registered yesterday, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying this afternoon that the number is now 50,000 as people aged 68 became eligible today. 

67 year olds can be registered tomorrow followed by 66 year olds on Sunday and 65 year olds from Monday. 

The HSE has said it will take three weeks to give the first doses to people aged 65-69 and a further three weeks for the 60-64 age group.

Those in the 60-69 age group are being offered the AstraZeneca jab and do not have a choice of which vaccine they receive.

GPs have reported that some patients are hesitant about having the AstraZeneca vaccine following reports of extremely rare blood clotting incidents have meant the vaccine is no longer recommended for those under 60. 

In a statement today, the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has urged people not to phone GPs for information about the AstraZeneca vaccine because of the workload GPs are operating under. 

The ICGP’s clinical lead on Covid-19 Dr Nuala O’Connor said this afternoon that GPs are not involved in administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to the over 60s (this cohort can only get the jab at a vaccination centre) and that those in that age category should register through the portal.  

“The vaccination programme is very good news, as these are very effective vaccines for our patients and we understand how anxious people are to receive them. But this is a huge logistical exercise and we are dealing with uncertainty in supplies and in changes to guidelines on vaccines for different age groups,” she said. 

ICGP medical director Dr Diarmuid Quinlan added:

We appreciate that there is a lot of anxiety about getting vaccines especially for those at high risk. Please understand GPs have no discretion in deciding who gets the vaccine and when. Please don’t pressurise your GP unduly.

Quinlan said that GPs are already very busy as part of the vaccine roll-out to over 70s and those in vulnerable categories, adding that people seeking appointments may have to show patience. 

Practice teams have taken on a significant extra workload to ensure the delivery of the mRNA vaccines to the over 70s and those with high-risk conditions. These vaccines are highly effective but must be managed and delivered with care and within a tight time frame. This is logistically complex, and complicated by the changes in supplies and deliveries. 

“We are asking the public to understand the pressures our staff are working under, and to be ready for delays at times. Please check your GP’s website for information before phoning, or go to the HSE website.” 

Speaking earlier today, the HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said that people in their 60s have “much more to fear” from Covid-19 than they do from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Henry said cases of blood clotting are “extraordinarily rare” and appealed to anybody in the 60-69 age group to avail of the vaccination if they are offered it.

The HSE’s chief clinical officer’s comments came as the health service’s Covid-19 vaccine registration portal opened to people aged 68 today.

“AstraZeneca vaccine is a really good vaccine,” Dr Henry told Newstalk Breakfast.

“I know there was bad publicity, and there’s talk and concern over what have been a very small number of cases.”

But he said more than 35 million doses have been administered in the UK and the EU to date and in-depth analysis has shown 88 “extraordinarily rare” blood clotting cases, and that these cases have “rarely ever” been reported in older people.

He said this is why the National Immunisation Advisory Council has advised against using the AstraZeneca jab in younger people.

He emphasised that the chance of getting seriously sick from Covid-19 and ending up in hospital and ICU is significantly higher for people in their 60s than younger people.

“I would say to anyone between 60 and 69 who is offered the AstraZeneca vaccine: take it and register,” he added.

“You’ve much more to fear from the virus than you have from the vaccine.”

Overall, Dr Henry said there is “lots of ground for optimism”.

“It’s not just the feeling of spring and summer, it’s also the real figures that are starting to show a definitive trend,” he said.

“The 14-day incidence was nearly 1,500 in the middle of January, now it’s 162,” he said.

“The average number of cases, the five-day moving average in the middle of January, was 6,800, now it’s 388.

“It’s still high but it’s a fraction of what it was. And hospital admissions, we see them fall below 200 for the first time since December.”

He attributed the figures to the impact of the rollout of the vaccination programme.

“We’re seeing a collapse in outbreaks in nursing homes – no outbreak last week, but we had seven a day in January,” he said.

“Cases among acute healthcare workers in hospital collapsed from 1,000 a week in January to 11 last week.”

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said that, after a “rollercoaster week”, he believes there are “good days ahead”.

Henry said Ireland remains “on track” to meet its target of giving four out of five people their first vaccine dose by June.

There was a double setback to the vaccine rollout earlier this week, with health experts recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine only be given to people over 60 in Ireland, and delays to the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine over safety concerns were announced.

But it was tempered on Wednesday by news that around 550,000 extra doses of the Pfizer jab are to be delivered in quarter two this year.

Henry said health officials have a plan and that they are also looking at extending the gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine so more people can receive their first dose quicker.

- With reporting by Press Association

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