Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

17.56 7 Apr 2021


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Dr Gabriel Scally says Ireland should consider following a British decision to offer an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under 30.

The public health expert says he believes UK officials have made the right decision.

Authorities in the UK today said younger adults should be offered an alternative COVID-19 vaccine if available.

It says it's a precaution due to "extremely rare" cases of blood clotting in people who'd recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The UK has reported 79 "cases of blood clotting cases alongside low levels of platelets" in people who've received the AstraZeneca jab.

All cases occurred after a first dose.

The European Medicines Agency, meanwhile, today said rare blood clots should be listed as a 'very rare side effect' for the use of the vaccine.

Europe's health regulator said there's a possible link between the vaccine and very rare cases of blood clotting.

Both UK and EU regulators have insisted the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.

On The Hard Shoulder, Dr Scally said the current situation is a blow to AstraZeneca.

He said: “At the moment, we’re only talking about possible side effects and at a very, very low level.

"The good bit is it shows there’s a surveillance system there that can pick up side effects, even when they occur very, very rarely.

“In the UK, they reported they had 79 cases of this clotting problem… of those 79, it resulted in 19 deaths. That’s around four cases of the problem in every million doses… but it’s very much age-related.”

Choice of vaccines

Dr Scally said people in the 60-69 age group are 70-80 times more likely of becoming very seriously ill from the virus - so the risk consideration is still "very, very heavily in favour" of getting the vaccine.

However, he said that balance is 'not quite as clear' when it comes to younger people.

He said: “If there’s a lot of virus around, you’re better having the vaccine. But if transmission rates are low… then you’re five times more likely to get a serious side effect from the AstraZeneca vaccine than you are [from] getting the virus.

“If you’re offered a choice - and that’s what they’re going to do - it’s absolutely the right thing to do to have a different vaccine.

“I certainly think it needs to be considered [in Ireland]. The UK has looked at this in some detail, and I think their judgement is correct on this.

“It does of course depend on whether you have other vaccines available.”

Dr Scally believes Ireland and other EU countries will now be looking very closely at the two reports released today.

He believes the UK decision is quite important, and noted they don’t think there will be an interruption to the vaccine schedule as a result of this change.

Ireland's due to get around 813,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming months, compared to around 2.1 million of the Pfizer / BioNTech jab and 605,000 of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The WHO, meanwhile, says its research so far shows a "causal relationship between the [AstraZeneca] vaccine and the occurrence of blood clots with low platelets is considered plausible but is not confirmed".

Main image: File photo of Gabriel Scally. Photo: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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