People will not be able to choose what vaccine they want, Government warns

People will not be able to choose what vaccine they want, Government warns

The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine is likely to prove very popular, but government sources said offering people a choice was 'not practical'. Picture: Timothy D Easley, Pool

People will not be able to choose what vaccine they want, the Government has warned, as around 14,000 doses of the single-jab Johnson & Johnson vaccine arrive this week.

It is the fourth vaccine approved for use in Ireland after getting the green light from the European Medicines Agency last month.

Given the advantage of a single dose, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is likely to prove very popular, but government sources said offering people a choice was "not practical".

Much of the 14,000-strong first batch will be used within communities which are less likely to engage with the health system, and therefore less likely to return for their second dose of other brands of vaccines. 

This means the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be rolled out to homeless people, the Travelling community, those engaged with drug services, and the Roma community to begin with.

However, several ministers say they are aware that the fact that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a single dose could lead to frustration among the wider public as it confers the so-called vaccine bonus much quicker.

Under the newest set of regulations, two fully-vaccinated people can meet indoors with no masks or social distancing.

With the Johnson & Johnson jab, the timeframe for full vaccination would be just two weeks. 

But, with the AstraZeneca vaccine, the first and second doses must be at least 56 days apart, meaning the minimum timeframe for someone who received that vaccine to be able to avail of the so-called bonus would be 10 weeks. 

Many people who have already received the vaccine in Ireland have had their second dose scheduled 12 weeks later.

However, despite this, Government sources say that there can be no choice offered about which vaccine people receive. One senior minister said that it would not "be practical to give people a choice of vaccine".

It would be great in an ideal world, but in the real world, it would slow the programme down, resulting in more infections and a longer lockdown.

Another minister said the arrival of the vaccine would "be a huge boost" to the vaccine programme, but said that the difference in time to be fully vaccinated will cause some people to lose out.

Another Government source said that the decision about which vaccines a person receives — outside of those decisions made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee  — would be "luck of the draw".

"Certainly this side of the summer and into it, there will be no option for people to choose themselves which vaccine they receive."

The arrival comes as restrictions ease across the country. From today:

  • People can travel anywhere within their county or 20km from home, whichever is greater; 
  • People from two households can also meet with each other outdoors for social and recreational purposes, but this is not allowed in gardens;  
  • Residential construction will also resume, sending around 14,000 builders back to work;  
  • Schools will fully reopen, with the last classes who had yet to return making their way back to the classroom

Ahead of the easing of restrictions, health minister Stephen Donnelly urged the public to stay the course in fighting the pandemic.

"We've seen a reduction in the number of cases reported and pretty much all the indicators are going in the right direction right now," he said.  

"People are making a huge sacrifice in order for us to stay on course by following the public health guidelines and we've got to stick with it. If we can stick with the measures that are in place, we can avoid another wave."

The latest Covid figures from the HSE saw the lowest number of daily case figures reported since mid-December, with 303 new cases reported, along with two new deaths.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the numbers show that "there are many reasons for hope as we head into a new week". 

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