The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) will meet tomorrow to consider the European Medicines Agency advice on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the issue of extending the period between vaccine doses, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) ruled yesterday that the benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the risk of any side effects.
However, it advised a warning about the potential for unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be added to the vaccine product information.
The Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) – the regulator's safety committee – said that these events should be listed as very rare side effects of the vaccine.
Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland earlier today, a consultant Haematologist said it was likely Niac would approve the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with the provision of an age limit.
Dr Denis O’Keefe said it makes “a great deal of sense” to use the jab, especially as it is a one shot dose.
Niac will have to weigh up the “very small risk” from the vaccine versus the risk of Covid, he said.
Dr O’Keeffe pointed out that of the eight cases of clotting identified in the US, where seven million doses had been given, there had been only one death.
Dr Mary Favier of the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) said all vaccines were very effective, so it was important to have the Johnson & Johnson one. Medics now had a better idea of the side effects so they could look out for them.
Safety first was important, she said, NIAC would advise accordingly.
Dr Favier called for doses for GPs to be ring fenced so they could complete vaccinations for the over-70s and those at risk in the over-60 category.
Dr Gerald Barry, an assistant professor of virology in UCD always weighed in on the issue on, stating Niac has a big decision to make in the coming days.
"If it isn't going to have a dramatic effect on the rollout, they potentially might look to hold back on it or put an age restriction on it."
"But if it is going to have a big impact on the rollout, then they might lean towards just using it because the idea of not using it and delaying people's vaccinations would actually be a much greater problem because it would expose a lot more people to the hugely negative effects of Covid itself."
Speaking on the same programme yesterday, Professor Luke O’Neill said Niac has already limited the use of AstraZeneca to the over-60s and it would be a “tragedy” if it did the same with Johnson & Johnson.
“It is in the same class as AstraZeneca so, therefore, should they treat it like AstraZeneca just for the over-60’s?” he asked.
“They are going to be on the ropes on that one because that would be consistent... and yet we need J&J to meet our [vaccine targets]”.
It is likely to be several days before Niac will issue advice on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.