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'Excess availability' Stockpile of AstraZeneca jabs that cannot be used to soar into millions as rollout peaks

A spokesperson for Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said 18.5 million doses had been ordered, and only around 10 million doses would be needed.


Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Ireland will start stockpiling millions of vaccines that cannot be used from mid-July due to the age restrictions placed on the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The roll-out will peak next week after experts warned we are in a race against time to get ahead of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

More than 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are due this week, and efforts are under way to give more than 450,000 people in the over-60s cohort their second AstraZeneca dose ahead of schedule.

AstraZeneca will then cease being used, but millions of doses will continue to arrive into the country.

The State will move into what is described as “excess vaccine availability” with both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca at that point, and a decision will have to be made on what happens to the current supply-chain agreements.

It comes as 443 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed by the Department of Health yesterday.

The number of people with the virus in hospital has risen to 43, up from 38 on Friday. The number of people in intensive care with the virus remains unchanged at 13.

Over 3.9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered as of Friday, with 40pc of adults now fully vaccinated.

More than 50,000 doses have been given each day for the last four days, with 59,000 doses given on Friday.

Some 340,000 doses are expected to be administered this week.

Head of the vaccine Taskforce Professor Brian MacCraith saud the Government would have to decide what to do with the excess supplies.

“We have significant contracts for many millions more AstraZeneca and the Government will decide how to deal with that,” he said.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said 18.5 million doses had been ordered, and only around 10 million doses would be needed.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be reconsidered for younger age groups to fight the spread of the Delta variant.

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He believes the Delta variant has changed the balance of risk when it comes to using those vaccines.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan is also seeking wider use of the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines to ensure stockpiles do not go to waste.

He has written to the National Immunisation Advisory Committee asking whether these vaccines can be given to younger people, including those in their 20s and 30s.

Earlier this week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said talks were ongoing to change the recommendation that AstraZeneca is used only for people aged over 50.

Meanwhile the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) general secretary Michael Gillespie has said that with older and vulnerable people vaccinated, consideration should be given to protecting young people.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Saturday with Justin McCarthy, he said Ireland has a very young teaching population and not all of them will be vaccinated by the time schools return in September nor will pupils.

"You’ve got a million people going back to school in September and we’re asking people to look at that and what should be the correct tactic.

"Everybody under 18 won’t be vaccinated and we are trying to provide an essential service. We know the most important thing in education is to have teachers in front of classes and we’re looking to protect that service. .”

Asked if the surplus of AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines should be offered to teachers, he said: “Whatever the health advice is to speed up any vaccination process as a way of dealing with the spread of the Delta variant, we will cooperate. But we’ll be absolutely be guided by whatever the public health advice is on vaccinations.”

Mr Gillespie said that because there is a greater spread of the virus in young people, and they won’t be vaccinated in September, “we’re asking that people consider that situation and see what should be done to protect the education systems so there is teachers in front of classes”.

He said there are some newer schools where 90pc of the teachers are aged under 35.

"If there was an outbreak in one of those schools, the service is decimated. So it’s to protect the service here that we think we should be considering vaccinating the young.”

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