Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says he'd have 'no hesitation' in recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60.
He told Newstalk Breakfast he believes health officials have made the right call in recommending that the jab should not be offered to younger people, but he would personally 'absolutely' get the vaccine if offered.
He said we'll know in a few days if the country can still vaccinate over 80% of the adult population by June in the wake of the changes.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) made the call yesterday after the EMA concluded last week that blood clots should be listed as one of the “very rare side effects” of the vaccine.
Officials have stressed the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks, and that anyone offered AstraZeneca in the coming weeks should know that it is safe and effective.
On Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Varadkar said NIAC had a difficult call to make.
He observed: “It’s easy to second guess them, but if they’d got it wrong they’d have few friends and supporters.
“I think on balance, they’ve got it right.
“NIAC has to weigh up the pros and cons, and come up with the best advice.”
He said all four vaccines approved for use here are safe and highly effective, with the first doses of the Johnson & Johnson / Jannsen vaccine due to arrive this week.
The Tánaiste said the full impact of the decision on Ireland's vaccine rollout will be known soon, but acknowledged the goal of 180,000 vaccine doses won't be met this week.
The HSE has cancelled AstraZeneca vaccine appointments planned for today but hopes to reschedule appointments shortly.
Mr Varadkar said: “In fairness... Paul Reid, the HSE, Brian MacCraith and their team have done a great job at pivoting now a few times.
“We won’t hit 180,000 [doses] this week, but we might be able to catch up in the next couple of weeks.”
Mr Varadkar said it may be the case 'down the line' that officials are again able to extend the groups eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
He assured people that the current stock won't go to waste, with around 500,000 people aged over 60 still to be vaccinated.
The Tánaiste said he knows some healthcare and frontline workers will be annoyed about their second dose being delayed after the gap between doses was increased to 16 weeks.
However, he said that's a precautionary move and it will be possibly be brought forward again.
While he said there's 'of course' a worry that changes to the vaccine programme will undermine confidence, he would 'absolutely' get the vaccine himself.
He said: “As a healthcare professional as well as a politician, I’d have no hesitation in recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60.
“All vaccines are medicines, and all medicines have side effects. Some are common and mild, some are rare and serious. This side effect does appear to be rare.
“The balance of risk is much more in favour of accepting the vaccine than refusing it.”
He said there's a 'minuscule' risk of serious side effects, adding that the clotting issue is likely treatable when detected as well.