The Health Service Executive (HSE) has cancelled all of tomorrow's planned AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination clinics.
The move follows the National Immunisation Advisory Committee's (NIAC) recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to people under the age of 60.
The independent medical expert group said that because "the benefits versus the risks of this vaccine may vary by age" and other Covid-19 vaccines are available it has revised its recommendations for the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
It follows concerns the vaccine is linked to cases of very rare blood clots, with a number of European Union (EU) countries limiting its use.
The HSE said anyone due to attend an AstraZeneca clinic is advised not to do so and that the health agency will be in contact with patients to rearrange their appointment.
The HSE said it will advise "further in terms of wider implications for the administration of the vaccination programme" after full consideration of the updated guidance.
The NIAC recommendation has been made to the Government this evening, and also includes new advice for people who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca.
It says the 12-week gap for receiving the second dose should remain for those over 60 and anyone under 60 considered high risk.
However, it says the timeframe should be extended to 16 weeks for those who are under 60 and not considered at high risk, to allow further assessments to take place.
If the NIAC recommendation is accepted, major changes will have to be made to the country's planned vaccine rollout.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) last week confirmed a link between the vaccine and very rare blood clots but stressed the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.
Speaking this evening about NIAC's recommendation, Professor Karina Butler, Chair of NIAC, said every authorised vaccine is effective at preventing hospitalisation and severe Covid-19 infection.
"Vaccination with Vaxzevria Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective and substantially reduces the risk of severe Covid-19 disease across all age groups.
“NIAC realises the need to balance the significant benefits of a national vaccination programme with the very rare risk of these reported events.
"While this is an extremely rare condition, consideration must be given to the fact that it has a very high risk of death or severe outcome.
"As the risk/benefits of Vaxzevria Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine may vary by age and as alternative Covid-19 vaccines are available NIAC has revised the recommendations for use of this vaccine," said Prof Butler.
The Chair of NIAC said all available scientific evidence is considered when devising the recommendations and any new evidence will be reviewed and future advice will be given to the Department of Health.
“We strongly encourage everyone to accept the Covid-19 vaccine they are offered.
"A high uptake of vaccine in every age group is needed if Covid-19 is to be controlled, so that public health restrictions may be safely removed,” said Prof Butler.
In summary, NIAC's revised advice for the AstraZeneca vaccine states:
- The AstraZeneca vaccine is recommended for those aged 60 years and older including those with medical conditions with a very high or high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
- AstraZeneca is not recommended for those aged under 60 years including those with medical conditions with a very high or high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
- A second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to anyone who developed unusual blood clots with low platelets after the first dose.
For those who have received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine, NIAC has said:
- People aged 60 and older should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as normal.
- Those aged under 60 years with very high risk or high-risk medical condition should receive their second dose 12 weeks later as scheduled.
- AstraZeneca recipients aged under 60 years without very high risk or high-risk medical condition should have the scheduled interval between doses extended to 16 weeks. This is to allow further assessment of the benefits and risks of the vaccine as more evidence becomes available.
In a statement this evening, Acting Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Ronan Glynn said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has been notified of roughly 2,800 reports of suspected side effects associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, in the context of 204,270 doses administered.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) said it is also received notice of a case of special interest and is continuing to follow up on this to see if it fits the profile of the very rare blood clots which were the subject of the EMA review.
"We will continue to monitor the roll-out of Vaxzevria/AstraZeneca in Ireland and internationally in collaboration with the HPRA and the NIAC," said Dr Glynn.
"The Department of Health, the HSE and the High-Level Taskforce will now work together to ensure that these updated recommendations are incorporated into the ongoing implementation of the vaccination programme," he added.
The updated advice follows the confirmation of 394 further cases of Covid-19 this evening as well as no new Covid-related deaths.
The total number of Covid-related fatalities since the outbreak began remains at 4,785.
As well as this, 241,330 cases of the coronavirus have been reported.
A breakdown of the latest case data shows:
- 179 cases are men and 214 are women
- 75% of cases are under 45 years of age
- The median age of today's confirmed is 33 years old
Dublin reported the most cases at 175 followed by Kildare with 34. Galway and Mayo both confirmed 21 cases each while Limerick reported 20 cases.
The remaining 123 cases are spread across 18 other counties
As of 8am today, 227 Covid-19 patients receiving treatment in hospital.
50 of these patients are in intensive care, with one admission to ICU in the past 24 hours and four people discharged.
22 additional hospitalisations happened in the past 24 hours while two people were discharged.
In total, more than one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Ireland since the rollout began.
As of Saturday, April 10, 745,363 firsts doses have been issued while 313,031 second doses have been administered.
Meanwhile, health experts say Ireland’s walk-in test centres are helping to drive down Covid-19 case numbers.
It comes after the country reported just 303 new virus cases yesterday, the lowest daily number this year.
Since March, walk-in test centres have been popping up in areas across Ireland with high Covid case numbers.
The centres are open for those who are asymptomatic, with the hope being they will help stop people who have no Covid symptoms from unknowingly spreading the virus.