People’s lives and health ‘will be put in danger’ if the decision to limit the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine slows down the national rollout, according to Professor Luke O’Neill.
The Trinity Immunologist was speaking after the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) said the jab should not be offered to people aged under 60.
As a result, thousands of vaccine appointments have been cancelled with all clinics planned for today called off.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Professor O’Neill said NIAC must be very confident that alternative vaccine supplies are on their way to Ireland.
“I hope they know something we don’t, by which I mean there must be loads of extra vaccine coming in to make up the difference here,” he said.
“Because, if this decision means we delay our vaccination campaign or push that out, that will put people’s lives and health in danger.
“Now, it is true we have other vaccines, which is great. If we only had AstraZeneca, they wouldn’t have done this, they would be giving it to everybody.
“So, they must have confidence in the vaccine supply which is a good thing and I have no reason to doubt that necessarily.”
NIAC made the recommendation after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded that blood clots should be listed as one of the “very rare side effects” of the vaccine.
The agency noted that the benefits of the jab continue to outweigh the risk.
Professor O’Neill said the key message now is that anyone who is offered the vaccine should “absolutely take the vaccine.”
“Everybody over 60 should take this vaccine,” he said. “This shouldn’t put them off.
“They will be anxious and hesitant of course. It is understandable there would be hesitancy now and worry about it but absolutely take the vaccine if you are over 60 because the risk of having severe disease, as we know, and really awful consequences from COVID are very, very high if you are in that group and this vaccine will protect you.
“That is the key message to take away from today.”
He said the consternation caused by the announcement is “understandable” but noted that “we just have to reassure people and say this vaccine will give you 100% protection from severe disease and death if you are over 60.”
“It is a tiny, tiny risk of anything happening in terms of clotting remember,” he said.
“There is an infinitesimally small risk of getting a clot from this vaccine so please, take the vaccine is the message.”
Professor O’Neill said that there should be “lots and lots of different vaccines” arriving in Ireland over the coming months – and warned that his only fear now is that the decision will hold up the vaccination campaign.
“That is my only fear about this now and let’s hope it doesn’t,” he said.
“I know people are annoyed and upset but please take the vaccine if you are over 60 because if you get infected with this virus, it will do you real harm.
“You are at risk of clots, of death and awful long COVID and this vaccine is a great way to stop all that.”
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