Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

07.54 22 Apr 2021


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Everyone aged 60-64 will soon be able to register for a vaccine appointment.

65-69 year-olds have been able to register over the past week, and that will now extend to people aged 60-64 over the coming days.

64-year-olds are being asked to register first from tomorrow.

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People in those age groups are set to be vaccinated over the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) will meet today to consider whether to roll out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine here.

It's after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found a possible link between the Covid-19 vaccine and very rare blood clots, but said the benefits outweigh the risks.

With the AstraZeneca vaccine already limited to over-60s due to clotting concerns, some experts and politicians want to see the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jab used more widely so Ireland can hit its vaccine targets.

'Very useful' vaccine

On Newstalk Breakfast, Professor Sam McConkey of the RCSI said Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is 'very useful'.

Vaccine registration to open to all 60-64 year-olds over coming days

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He said: "I’m delighted the EMA has said ‘give it a licence’. I hope it is a substantial part of our national plan to get us out of COVID-19.

“When I look at the small risk of clots… people have bandied around one in a million, but when we see the data from the US, that’s sort of exactly where it’s coming in.”

Agencies such as NIAC need to weigh up the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 versus the risk of a rare side effect from the vaccine - particularly how that differs in different age groups.

For Professor McConkey, there's almost an "equal risk-benefit" from taking the vaccine for people aged around 20 years of age.

However, for those aged 25-30 there's "clearly a substantial benefit" from getting the vaccine.

He observed: “It depends how much caution you feel national recommendation agencies should have. Historically, NIAC has been very, very cautious and very, very risk-averse. You can say that’s a good thing in a national agency.

“In this case, most of us have seen the horrible effects of COVID… so it is a balance.

“To me, the equalness is around 20 years [of age] - and that’s based on the assumption COVID numbers stay the same for the rest of the year.”

NIAC is also considering whether to increase the gap between Pfizer vaccine doses to speed up the rollout.

Professor McConkey said Ireland would be entering unknown waters if we go with that option.

He said: “There is a little bit of uncertainty around how well that would work… we don’t have a big phase three study of 30,000 people telling us the answer to that.

“It does seem to have worked in countries like Israel… we’ve got population-level efficacy.

"I think it’s certainly a reasonable choice - of course, it would be against the manufacturer’s recommendation and the EMA."

Main image: File photo. Photograph: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

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