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Pregnant women to be offered Covid-19 vaccines as Cabinet accepts NIAC advice

Over 600,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine are due in Ireland before the end of June.

Image: Shutterstock/EmiliaUngur

Updated Apr 27th 2021, 3:34 PM

PREGNANT WOMEN ARE likely to be offered faster access to vaccines following NIAC advice which has been accepted by Cabinet today.

The Government confirmed that pregnant women would be offered an mRNA vaccine between 14 and 36 weeks gestation, and only after consulting with their doctor.

Previous advice from NIAC recommended that COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to pregnant women at high risk of severe disease and healthcare workers.

Government today approved NIAC’s recommendations about the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines.

The two vaccines have been recommended for people aged 50 and over.

The recommendation is also for the Johnson & Johnson jab to be given to people under 50 if there is no other option available and for hard-to-reach communities.

It is also recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine can be used in people over 50. Until now, it was mostly restricted to people aged over 60.

The Government said in a statement last night that the exception to this is where a two-dose mRNA vaccine schedule may not be feasible, in which case consideration may be given to Janssen (J&J) for those aged 18-49 years.

NIAC has also recommended that there will be no increase in the current four-week interval in the doses of the the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. 

There had been suggestions that this interval could be spaced out to allow a greater number of people receive a first dose but this is now unlikely. 

The gap between first and second doses of AstraZeneca will remain at 12 weeks.

Those who have already had Covid-19

The Government also said that there is “good evidence” that those who had Covid-19 before and then got a single dose of an mRNA vaccine had a similar antibody response to those who have never had Covid-19 and who had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine.

It also said that a second dose of an mRNA vaccine in those who have previously had a Covid-19 infection “does not appear to increase the power of this immune response”.

There is also some evidence that those aged older than 50 years have a less robust immune response than those under 50 years old. On that basis, NIAC has recommended:

  • Those aged 50 years and older should receive a full Covid-19 vaccine schedule
  • Those aged under 50 years and immunocompromised should receive a full Covid-19 vaccine schedule
  • Those aged under 50 years and who are not immunocompromised and who have had a Covid-19 infection in the previous 6 months should receive a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine, at which point they should be considered fully vaccinated.

Political reaction

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said this afternoon that no formal decision has yet been taken but it is understood that NIAC’s advice is not to increase the interval. 

“We have we have a view from NIAC on that, the Chief Medical Officer, myself and the department are going to look at that in the coming days just to tease out the implications of it, ” Donnelly told reporters this afternoon.

We just got the advice last night, what was important today was to bring to Cabinet the agreement on Janssen and AstraZeneca, so that we could give the HSE the green light to plan accordingly.

Speaking about the decision in relation to pregnant women, Donnelly said the process by which pregnant women will receive the vaccine will be worked out and that they may hear in the coming weeks. 

He added there would not be an age-based component to the process: 

We’ll work that through with the HSE right now, certainly there wasn’t a suggestion that that would be based on age. It’s fair to say that most pregnant women will be below 50,we’ve only got the advice last night so we’ll work with the HSE no to put the protocols in place. 

Over 600,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine is expected here up to the end of June. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told reporters this afternoon that it’s “full steam ahead” for the vaccine programme after NIAC recommendations.

He said the NIAC decision is “good news”, stating that there are now 600,ooo vaccines for Q2 that we didn’t have at midnight.

The evidence from the vaccines is that the benefits far outweigh the risks, he said. 

The Taoiseach said some weeks have been lost in the vaccination programme due to the constant changes, but he said significant volumes of the vaccine would be arriving into Ireland in the coming days and weeks.

Martin said the “bulk” of J&J vaccine is due in May and June.

Donnelly added this afternoon said that the decisions in relation to J&J and AstraZeneca meant that it was “full steam ahead” for the vaccination programme. 

What it means is that we can keep going as fast as possible with the vaccination program. Obviously, some people were speculating as to what might happen if there were additional restrictions on Johnson & Johnson. The fact that both Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca, in fact all of the vaccines, are here for everyone from 50 up really means that we can keep going at pace right now.

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“I was talking with the taskforce earlier this morning, around doing some detailed modelling as to, given what we now know in terms of the use of all vaccines, how quickly we can we can vaccinate 60 to 64 cohorts and quickly we can then move on to the 50 to 59 cohort. But in the short term, it’s really positive news. And it just means full steam ahead vaccination program.”

Donnelly said he expects that “about 750,000+” vaccinations will take place in April. 


Elsewhere, there are 151 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of 8pm yesterday, a drop from 184 at 8am that morning.

There are 45 Covid-19 patients in intensive care.

Vaccine decision

NIAC made its decision on the vaccines following meetings last week and a safety review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

The EMA said the “overall benefits” of the J&J vaccine outweighs any potential risks, following reports of rare blood clotting events. 

NIAC previously recommended that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine be used for over-60s only, forcing a shake-up of Ireland’s roll-out programme. 

This decision by NIAC is also likely to influence the forthcoming decision on whether Ireland will increase the gap between the first and second doses of mRNA vaccines Pfizer and Moderna. 

Additional reporting by Christina Finn and Rónán Duffy

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