irishtimes– Limiting the use of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to only those aged over 60 will cause “hesitancy and concern” with the vaccination effort, according to a leading doctor.
The rare risk of blood clots from the vaccine needed to be kept in “perspective”, Dr Mary Favier, Covid-19 adviser to the Irish College of General Practitioners, said.
On Monday, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) recommended AstraZeneca should not be given to people aged under 60, following reports across Europe of unusual but severe clotting events as very rare side-effects to the vaccine.
The move has meant a further reordering of the State vaccination plan, at a time when officials hoped the vaccination campaign would begin to accelerate.
Dr Favier said there was a higher risk of clotting to people on a long-haul flight or from taking the contraceptive pill than from AstraZeneca.
The GP, who sits on the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), told RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland that the risk from Covid-19 was much higher than from any vaccine.
The recommendation from Niac would now likely see those aged 60 to 69 vaccinated quicker, she said. More than 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are to be delivered to the State in this quarter.
Liam Fanning, a professor of immunovirology at University College Cork, criticised Niac’s decision as overly cautious. “I’m not quite sure why they jumped to Defcon level 10 at this stage,” he said.
Prof Fanning said there was a one in 200 chance of dying from Covid-19, and a one in a million chance of dying from a blood clot from the AstraZeneca shot.
Speaking on Tuesday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar echoed concerns about the issues with AstraZeneca leading to hesitancy in people trusting vaccines.
Mr Varadkar said it was easy for people to “second guess” Niac, but the health service was successfully “pivoting” to adjust the vaccine rollout.
Prof Karina Butler, chair of Niac, acknowledged there had been “several twists and turns and modifications” in its vaccination advice, but said it was dealing with an evolving situation.
“We’ve never been in this situation before. As information comes off the boil we are trying to make the best decisions,” she told Morning Ireland.
There were a number of alternative vaccines available, so no one would be “left behind”, she said.
The continued turbulence in the vaccination rollout comes as Covid-19 restrictions were eased on Monday, after several months of strict lockdown measures.
People are now permitted to meet up with one other household outdoors, but not in home gardens. Non-essential travel is also permitted within a person’s county or 20km from their home if crossing county boundaries.
There were 203 patients with Covid-19 in hospital as of 8pm on Monday, according to the Health Service Executive’s daily operations report.
There were 46 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units, with 26 of those on ventilators.
This is a drop from the 263 Covid-19 patients in hospital seven days ago, when 55 were in intensive care.