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Kick in the Astra Up to 100,000 to miss out on Covid-19 jab this week as vaccination clinics are cancelled

It was due to be a breakthrough week of up to 180,000 vaccinations but most have been halted except for those for the over-70s and a small number of over-60s

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A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus disease

A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus disease

A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus disease

Up to 100,000 people – including those with underlying illnesses who are at serious risk from coronavirus as well as healthcare workers – will miss out on Covid-19 vaccination this week.

The HSE has had to cancel clinics giving the AstraZeneca vaccine for most people, except the over-60s, after its roll-out was plunged into disarray by the decision of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) to restrict the jab’s use due to a link with rare blood clots.

It was due to be a breakthrough week of up to 180,000 vaccinations but most have been halted except for those for the over-70s and a small number of over-60s.

The backlog comes as hopes were dealt another blow yesterday after Johnson & Johnson, which was due to supply around 40,800 of its one-shot jab this week, postponed deliveries to Europe after US regulators investigated a small number of blood clots in ­people who got the vaccine.

Uncertainty now hangs over the 605,000 doses of the ‘game-changer’ vaccine which are scheduled to arrive here up to the end of June.

There are growing fears the target to have more than 80pc of the population having received at least one dose of vaccine by the end of June – a key element of release from lockdown – will not be met.

The Government is now considering an extension to the gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine in an attempt to address the fallout caused by public health concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine.

People who receive the Pfizer vaccine currently wait for four weeks or 28 days until they get their second dose.

However, this may now be extended to allow more people to get their first Covid-19 vaccine while the National Vaccination Programme is reorganised to take into account changes to public health advice on AstraZeneca.

The gap between first and second doses of Pfizer ranges from four to 12 weeks in some countries.

The vaccine dose would be given to people under 60 who have underlying conditions leaving them at very high or high risk if they catch Covid-19.

A study showed the Pfizer vaccine was 85pc effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 within 15 to 28 days after the first shot was administered.

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NIAC recommended against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone under 60 years old amid concerns about rare blood clotting.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to meet with Vaccination Programme Taskforce head Professor Brian MacCraith today to discuss the fallout of the NIAC recommendation.

The HSE is also looking at bringing forward the launch of its portal which would be open to members of the public to register for a vaccine for the first time.

The portal could be opened later this week to people aged over 60 asking them to register their details for a vaccine.

It would begin with those aged 65 and over.

It could mean that those in this age group – who do not qualify for a vaccine on grounds of underlying illness – could be offered an AstraZeneca vaccine some time next week.

Speaking at a conference yesterday HSE chief Paul Reid said: “I expect we will be resetting rather than revamping the whole programme.

“It’s about the channels of delivery.”

The AstraZeneca vaccines had been earmarked for people with underlying illnesses.

It accounts for around one-fifth of vaccine supplies and 813,000 doses are due here before the end of June.

A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson in Dublin said yesterday it was aware of an extremely rare disorder involving people with blood clots in combination with low platelets in a small number of individuals who received the Covid-19 vaccine.

The US FDA is reviewing the data involving six people out of more than 6.8 million doses administered.

“Out of an abundance of caution”, they recommended a pause in the vaccine.

“In addition we have been reviewing these cases with European health authorities. We have made the decision to proactively delay the roll-out of the vaccine in Europe.”

Acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn addressed the Oireachtas health committee yesterday, which heard that TDs were receiving phone calls from people anxious about getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Dr Glynn said there was a “bumpy road ahead” not just in Ireland but in other countries around the vaccine roll-out.

There are around 20pc to 30pc of people who have legitimate questions about vaccines and these need to be addressed.

However, he said he stands over the “safety and effectiveness” of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the age groups who are now being offered it.

Meanwhile, another 358 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday with 18 more deaths. Seven of the deaths occurred in April and the rest earlier this year. The deceased ranged in age from 46 to 102.

There were 205 patients with the virus in hospital and 48 in intensive care yesterday morning showing another fall in those who are sickest with Covid-19. Among the new cases 166 were in Dublin, 39 in Donegal, 16 in Kildare, 13 in Offaly, 12 in Meath, 12 in Limerick and the remaining 100 were in 18 other counties.

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