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Update on use of J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines for under-50s expected in coming days

Dr Tony Holohan said he expects to receive an updated recommendation from NIAC in the coming days.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Image: Brian Lawless via PA Images

NO DECISION ON the use of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines for the under-50s will be made until the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) issues advice, the Chief Medical Officer has said.

Dr Tony Holohan said he expects to receive an updated recommendation from the committee on the issue in the coming days.

His comments follow the Taoiseach yesterday voicing his support for lowering the age limit on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to ensure no jabs go to waste.

The HSE has asked for “flexibility” to allow the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Janssen vaccine for people aged under 50.

NIAC has previously recommended that the Janssen and AstraZeneca jabs are not to be given to people under 50 amid concerns over links with rare blood clots.

“I wrote to the National Immunisation Advisory Committee last week, asking for updated advice in relation to the use of the vaccines that are recommended for the over-50s only, in other words, the Johnson and the AstraZeneca. And I expect to receive advice in the coming days,” Dr Holohan told RTÉ’s News At One.

He said the health service was working to get people over the age of 50 and all the high risk groups vaccinated this month.

“We would hope certainly around the end of the month, that we’ve substantially gotten through those groups,” Dr Holohan said.

“Then the question about what happens next in terms of those vaccines arises, and that’s why we need that advice.”

Asked if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were to remain confined to those over 50, whether that would delay the vaccination of those in their 40s, Holohan said at present the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is “not concluding that the we can’t use J&J” and that the advice they receive “might increase the flexibility that we have around that”.

The two-millionth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be administered this week.

As of Saturday a total of 1,827,610 doses of coronavirus vaccine had been given in Ireland. These included 1,327,821 first doses and 499,789 second doses.

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Registration is now open for people aged 53 and above.

Dr Holohan said the vaccine uptake rates were very high and he appealed for anyone in the older age groups who had not registered for a vaccine to log onto the HSE portal.

He said the more people that are vaccinated, the greater chance the country has of further restrictions being eased and “getting a return of some of the things that we all dearly want to see returning, the things that we miss”.

Asked whether there could be spectators at this year’s GAA finals, Holohan replied: “I’d really like to think so.

“One of the things that’s going to be important in all of that, as well as keeping the disease at very low levels of transmission through continued observance of all public health measures, will be getting the vaccine uptake as high as possible.”

He added that once it is “appropriate and safe to do so” NPHET would give advice around spectators attending large indoor and outdoor gatherings.

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