Waning supplies of the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine nationwide could impact the pace of the vaccine rollout, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has warned.
The IPU has called for all vaccinating pharmacies to be supplied with the Pfizer vaccine as soon as possible to facilitate younger people awaiting a vaccine.
As of today, pharmacies in the vaccination programme have vaccinated more than 150,000 people, about two-thirds of whom are under the age of 29.
All pharmacies are receiving the Janssen vaccine, but early replenishment of supplies looks “unlikely on the scale required”, the IPU said, adding that this would significantly affect the rollout of vaccines in local communities.
“We are seeing very strong community support for local vaccination, with thousands of applicants still coming forward,” IPU secretary general Darragh O’Loughlin said.
“Pharmacists can continue to make further strong progress if all participating pharmacies are supplied with the Pfizer vaccine and this is particularly the case as younger people are being invited to receive a vaccine."
Mr O’Loughlin emphasised the appeal of pharmacies to younger age groups who are now coming forward for vaccinations.
“The vaccination centres have performed admirably but they have their limitations. Travel to vaccine centres, the potential for long queues, and the overall time required could be a disincentive to some people,” he said.
“Younger people are less likely to have access to a car and may have less flexible employment.
"Pharmacies eliminate these concerns by providing a fast and convenient service within local communities.”
Accessibility and convenience will be key to completing the vaccination campaign, he said.
“Over half of the Irish population lives within 1km of a pharmacy and 85% live within 5km.
"Expanding pharmacy vaccine supplies would sustain almost 1,000 vaccination locations in practically every town and village in the country.
“The full reopening of our society depends on the pace of the vaccine rollout. By maximising the capacity of pharmacies that pace can significantly increase.”
The appeal comes as the Government has agreed to extend Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout to those aged 12 to 15, while vaccine registration for those aged 16 and 17 opened today.
To date, two mRNA vaccines have been approved by the European Medicines Agency for use in the 12 to15 age cohort, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
During clinical trials the estimate for efficacy of both vaccines was reported as 100% in these age groups.