Donnelly: No decision this week on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Rollout has resumed across Europe as the European Medicines Agency said the benefits of the jab in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side-effects
Donnelly: No decision this week on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Professor Karina Butler, chair of National Immunisation Advisory Committee, and Dr Ronan Glynn, acting chief medical officer: Niac will rule next week on use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

No decision will be made on the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in Ireland this week, the Health Minister has told the Dáil.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) met on Thursday to discuss the vaccine, which had had its rollout suspended to investigate a small number of blood clotting incidents. Niac has recommended that the Astrazeneca vaccine be used only by those over 60 due to similar fears.

The rollout has since resumed across Europe as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the benefits of the jab in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side-effects.

No decision will be made on the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in Ireland this week, the Health Minister has told the Dáil. File picture: Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP
No decision will be made on the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for use in Ireland this week, the Health Minister has told the Dáil. File picture: Szilard Koszticsak/MTI via AP

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he did not expect a ruling from Niac until next week.

"The EMA completed its review on April 20, recommending that the product information for the vaccine should be updated to refer to possible very rare side effects of these blood clots, but said that the benefits do outweigh the risks.

Niac is currently considering the EMA's position on Johnson & Johnson and I expect a recommendation early next week from Niac on that."

This will mean a decision on spacing out the time between doses of other vaccines. Mr Donnelly said those who have an appointment for the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should go ahead with it, even if Niac recommends spacing out the doses.

Mr Donnelly said those under 60 who had already received their first dose of AstraZeneca should also attend for their second dose.

He said the rollout of the vaccine among older people is going well, with 83% of people aged 65-69 having now registered for a vaccine.

Indian variant

On the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19, Mr Donnelly said he had discussed the issue with deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn. 

He said a recommendation on mandatory hotel quarantine for people coming from or through India will be made this week. However, he said the variant was not yet a "variant of concern".

“When the deputy chief medical officer and I spoke on this yesterday the Indian variant had not yet been classified by the multilaterals as a variant of concern, but we know the UK has added it to their list and we’re looking very closely at it," he said.

Mr Donnelly's junior minister Mary Butler told the Dáil the remaining housebound people who require an ambulance service crew to vaccinate them are being contacted this week.

She said this was a "complex" process which required crews to be at homes for up to 40 minutes.

Legal case against AstraZeneca

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly told Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond that the European Commission has taken a legal case against AstraZeneca for its failure to meet delivery timelines.

"With regard to AstraZeneca, a legal case has been initiated by the commission and earlier this week I have joined Ireland as one of the parties to that legal case, specifically around AstraZeneca's complete failure to meet its delivery and contractual agreements for April, May and June."

Mr Donnelly said delivery interruptions had led to a need to alter the vaccine programme for "every single week" in the next number of months.

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