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60,000 dose shortfall in J&J vaccine supply next week as HSE says it will need to use the jab in under 50s

Government will have to approve any widespread use of the vaccine in the under 50s.

Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE HSE IS asking the government to approve a proposal to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in people aged under 50, as larger volumes of the jab are not due to arrive until later in the quarter.

Damien McCallion, HSE Lead Covid-19 vaccination programme, today revealed that the delivery of vaccines from this supplier next week will be reduced by 60,000 doses.

He said Pfizer and Moderna have both been stable in terms of delivery volumes, but there have been consistent issues with AstraZeneca and now with Janssen’s vaccine.

McCallion said the volume of doses from the company next week will be reduced by around 60,000.

“They’re obviously very disruptive in terms of next week’s plans, or the following week’s plans,” he said.

He said Janssen has still committed to providing the total expected numbers in May, but later than previously anticipated. He said the HSE only receives confirmation of exact volumes from suppliers seven to ten days beforehand and can then plan appointments for that period.

HSE CEO Paul Reid said the fact that deliveries from Janssen are “back-ended” will impact on the overall plan and some flexibility will be required. 

The HSE has submitted a revised plan to government, taking into account fresh advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee which stated that both the AstraZeneca and Janssen (J&J) vaccines should be used only in those aged 50 and over. 

There are exceptions to the advice in the case of Janssen, which is to be given to hard to reach groups because it is a one-dose vaccine. This week the rollout of this vaccine to homeless people in Dublin began.

Reid said one of the key principles of the revised plan is to continue using all available vaccines within a week of their delivery.

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“We can’t have a scenario where we end up progressing through the ages where we’re in a much younger age group and still waiting for deliveries [of J&J] to finalise the over 50s. Ultimately it needs some flexibility to utilise those Janssens beyond the age currently it’s defined for,” he said.

He said the HSE will need the ability to administer J&J vaccine to those under the age of 50 as we move into late May and early June. Reid said approval for this approach has been sought from the Chief Medical Officer and government.

The HSE has also progressed plans to potentially bring community pharmacies on stream earlier than planned in the rollout. Around 800 pharmacies have expressed interest in administering vaccines.

Initially it was envisaged that pharmacies would administer only AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines on site, as these jabs are easier to store and distribute. This plan will have to shift to the use of the mRNA vaccines for younger groups as we move through the summer. 

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