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NIAC to review 12-week interval for AstraZeneca doses in view of India variant

Ireland administers AstraZeneca in two doses 12 weeks apart.

Image: Rollingnews.ie

NIAC HAS SAID it will continue to review the 12-week gap between doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the Covid-19 variant first identified in India.

In a letter to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) noted that the UK recently decided to reduce the interval between doses of AstraZeneca.

UK health authorities earlier this month decided to reduce the 12-week interval between doses to eight weeks for all of its vaccines. 

In Ireland the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are administered in two doses four weeks apart but there is a gap of 12 weeks for the AstraZeneca jab. 

NIAC had been sought to provide advice on whether this gap should be reduced, with the Dáil hearing concerns that some people aged over 60 were concerned about the interval between the jabs. 

Currently, AstraZeneca is not recommended in Ireland for people under the age of 50.

In its advice to the CMO, NIAC chair Karina Butler says it will review the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine (brand name Vaxzevria).

Interval between first and second dose Vaxzevria in view of emerging B.1617.2 (Indian variant). NIAC notes that the UK has reduced the interval between doses of Vaxzevria and mRNA vaccines from 12 weeks to 8 weeks to provide earlier protection against this variant. 

NIAC notes that the interval between doses of mRNA vaccines in Ireland has not exceeded 4 weeks and will keep the issue of the interval between two doses of Vaxzevria under review.

Speaking earlier today in the Dáil, Labour leader Alan Kelly TD said he has been “inundated with messages from people all over the country” about the question of whether the interval should be reduced. 

“I accept that doing so could be disruptive of supply, but that is secondary to the fact these people are likely to be the most vulnerable and the longest away from getting fully vaccinated and are at risk from new variants.

There are more than 400,000 people, some of whom are watching the debate, who are aged between 60 and 69 years. 

In response, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that it was his understanding that the most recent advice was that the interval should remain at 12 weeks but that NIAC has been “willing” to explain its advice further. 

Kelly noted that a study from Public Health England found that the first dose of AstraZeneca is “only 33% effective against the Indian variant”. 

Speaking in Downing Street today about the UK’s response to Covid-19, Health Minister Matt Hancock said about 75% of new coronavirus cases in the UK were the India variant.

3,535 cases of the India variant were recorded last week, almost doubling the total figure, but hospital admissions remained flat. 

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The HSE’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry confirmed this afternoon that the total number of cases of the India variant recorded in Ireland was 97.  

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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