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NIAC considers increasing gap between first and second Pfizer vaccine doses

The consideration is being made amid a serious disruption to Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at Waterford Primary Care Centre.
A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is prepared at Waterford Primary Care Centre.
Image: PA

THE NATIONAL IMMUNISATION Advisory Committee (NIAC) is considering whether to extend the interval between the first and second Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to increase the number of people who have some level of protection against Covid-19.

The consideration is being made amid a serious disruption to Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout, due to rare blood clotting side effects associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as a possible similar issue with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

It’s understood the time between vaccine doses being administered to individuals will be looked at as one possible option for re-jigging the strategy – as has been the approach adopted by the UK and Canada.

Currently, there is a four-week gap between the first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Ireland.

But internationally, the gap is being extended between four and 12 weeks for Pfizer vaccines. This gives authorities time to roll out the vaccine to more people to give the some level of protection against Covid-19.

NIAC are considering this strategy, but as of yet have not made a recommendation to government.

Cabinet are due to meet tomorrow to discuss a range of issues to do with the State’s Covid-19 strategy, including how to reconfigure its vaccination programme to make up for the new safety advice in relation to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

At a NPHET briefing last night, when asked by The Journal whether they would lengthen the time between first and second doses of mRNA vaccines, chair of NIAC Professor Karina Butler said that was “a consideration that can be looked at… because that has been successfully done elsewhere and may be something that is needed, or may not be needed, depending on the supplies and everything else”.

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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