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HSE will 'immediately endeavour' to begin using AstraZeneca jab again if EMA gives all clear

The agency is holding an extraordinary meeting to finalise its conclusions on the blood clot issue. A number of countries across Europe, including Ireland, paused use of the vaccine in recent days.

Image: Shutterstock/Girts Ragelis

Updated Mar 18th 2021, 10:24 AM

THE TAOISEACH HAS said health authorities here will immediately endeavour to begin using the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab again if the European Medicines Agency gives the vaccine the all clear following a meeting today.

A number of countries across Europe, including Ireland, paused use of the vaccine in recent days following reports by the Norwegian Medicines Agency of blod clots in a number of patients.

No causal link was established between the jab and the patients developing the clots but Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the decision to pause use of the vaccine had been made on a precautionary principal.

World Health Organization experts yesterday recommended countries continue to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, but said they were looking into its safety.

The WHO, the EMA and AstraZeneca itself have repeatedly said the vaccine is safe.

The WHO’s vaccine experts said yesterday it was still better to take the AstraZeneca vaccine than not – adding that it was looking into available data on the jab.

“The WHO Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety is carefully assessing the latest available safety data,” the UN health agency said.

“At this time, WHO considers that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh its risks and recommends that vaccinations continue.”

The recommendation echoed a similar statement from the European Medicines Agency on Tuesday advising countries to continue using it, saying there was no link with clots.

The Amsterdam-based agency is holding an extraordinary meeting today to finalise its conclusions on the blood clot issue and “make any necessary recommendations for further action”.

Speaking to reporters yesterday evening Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that if the EMA approves use of the vaccine today the HSE “will immediately endeavour to operationalise what it can”. 

“It will take some time, because obviously people have to be notified again, logistics have to be put in place and the venue has to be organised and so on.

“But we will be doing everything we possibly can to accelerate the vaccine, particularly for those who have had their vaccinations postponed as a result of the decision taken last weekend.”

The European Commission’s public health spokesperson said today that it is on track to achieve its goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population in the EU by the end of the summer.

Stefan De Keersmaecker acknowledged that the first quarter has presented “challenges and obstacles” but said there will be an important speeding up of vaccine deliveries in Q2, including the single-shot Johnson and Johnson jab.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, De Keersmaecker said that even if the AstraZeneca jab does not form part of the future vaccine programme, the EU will still have close to 300 million doses in the second quarter.

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He said some member states may be able to accelerate their programmes more quickly than others and while there have been production issues with AstraZeneca doses other companies have not experienced these problems.

“On the basis of how things are looking now, we are definitely on the right track,” he said.

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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