New advice on Astrazeneca COVID-19 vaccine

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   14th Apr 2021

People strongly encouraged to accept any COVID-19 vaccine they are offered

All authorised COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalisation and severe illness and death from COVID-19, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has stated.

However, out of an abundance of caution, NIAC has changed its advice to the Department of Health on the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 known as Vaxzevria.

These changes have come about due to a recent investigation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Earlier this month the EMA announced that it had concluded an investigation into a number of very rare, unusual blood clots occurring with low platelets in people following vaccination with Vaxzevria.

The EMA’s safety committee concluded that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of Vaxzevria/AstraZeneca but that the benefits of this vaccine continue to outweigh the risks.

" All authorised COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing hospitalisation and severe illness and death from COVID-19,"

National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC)

NIAC is made up of highly qualified medical experts who meet to consider new evidence about vaccines and provide advice to the Chief Medical Officer and the Department of Health.

According to NIAC, “These rare events are estimated to occur between 4 and 10 in every 1 million people, one of whom may die.”

NIAC added that the benefits versus the risks of this vaccine may vary by age and as alternative COVID-19 vaccines are available in Ireland, it has recommended the following:

Any authorised COVID-19 vaccine, including Vaxzevria COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca, is recommended for those aged 60 years and older

.

Advice for those who have received a first dose of Vaxzevria COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca is:

“ We strongly encourage everyone to accept the COVID-19 vaccine they are offered,"

Professor Karina Butler, Chair, National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC)

Commenting on the new advice, NIAC Chair, Professor Karina Butler, said, “All the authorised COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, and the newly approved Janssen – are highly effective in preventing hospitalisation and severe COVID-19 disease. Vaccination with Vaxzevria COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine is highly effective and substantially reduces the risk of severe COVID-19 disease across all age groups.

“NIAC realises the need to balance the significant benefits of a national vaccination programme with the very rare risk of these reported events. While this is an extremely rare condition, consideration must be given to the fact that it has a very high risk of death or severe outcome. As the risk/benefits of Vaxzevria COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine may vary by age and as alternative COVID-19 vaccines are available NIAC has revised the recommendations for use of this vaccine.

“In developing these recommendations, NIAC is informed by the available scientific evidence and the risk/benefits of the vaccines. New evidence will be reviewed once available and any further required recommendations will be notified to the Department of Health.

“We strongly encourage everyone to accept the COVID-19 vaccine they are offered. A high uptake of vaccine in every age group is needed if COVID-19 is to be controlled, so that public health restrictions may be safely removed” Prof Butler said.

" NIAC realises the need to balance the significant benefits of a national vaccination programme with the very rare risk of these reported events,"

Professor Karina Butler, Chair , National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC)

In a statement the Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said, “We will continue to monitor the roll-out of Vaxzevria/AstraZeneca in Ireland and internationally in collaboration with the HPRA and the NIAC. The Department of Health, the HSE and the High-Level Taskforce will now work together to ensure that these updated recommendations are incorporated into the ongoing implementation of the vaccination programme.”

The HSE cancelled all appointments for the COVID-19 Astrazeneca vaccine on Tuesday 13th of April 2021 and for the rest of the week, but stated that it would be in touch with people who were due to be vaccinated to reschedule their appointments.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines please see here

As this is an evolving situation please note that this information is correct at time of publication but may change. For regular updated information on COVID-19 and vaccinations please see here.

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