Professor of Immunovirology at University College Cork (UCC), Liam Fanning has called for increased orders of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to make up for the decision to limit the age groups that can receive the AstraZeneca jab.
The “abundance of caution” approach adopted by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) in recommending the AstraZeneca doses only be used for people over the age of 60 has been taken too far, Prof Fanning told Newstalk Breakfast.
Given the ongoing problems with AstraZeneca deliveries, and now the questioning of its use because of the possibility of blood clotting, it made sense to consider rolling out the other vaccines, he said.
There was a danger that such a decision by Niac could do more harm than good, he acknowledged, adding it appeared the vaccine rollout programme had become “risk averse.”
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Prof Fanning said he could understand concerns about clotting, but said that compared to other medicines the risk was relatively low.
He pointed out that statistically there was a one in 200 chance of dying from Covid-19, while there was a one in a million chance of dying from a blood clot after receiving the AstraZeneca jab.
“I’m not quite sure why they jumped to Defcon Level 10 at this stage,” he said.
There was pressure to appear to be seen to be doing something, he added. Fortunately, there were options with a new vaccine from France due to become available shortly which would be very effective, Prof Fanning said.
Meanwhile, the Covid-19 adviser to the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), Dr Mary Favier, has called on the public to be patient and not to contact their GPs about changes to the vaccine rollout.
Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Dr Favier said there is not a GP in the country who is not bracing themselves for the extra workload of making phone calls to change appointments because of the Niac instruction.
There was no wriggle room now for GPs about using AstraZeneca, she said, adding they had to stay within the guidelines.
“This is going to cause hesitancy and concern,” Dr Favier said.
Once GPs have been informed by the HSE about deliveries, they will then call their patients, she assured.
Dr Favier urged anyone who has received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to keep the appointment for their second dose, as there did not appear to be any issue with clotting from the later shot.
“It’s important to continue to follow through. To do what’s recommended. It is a very effective vaccine,” she added.
There was a higher risk of clotting to people on a long haul flight or from taking the contraceptive pill than from AstraZeneca, Dr Favier said. “We need to keep the risk in perspective.”
Dr Favier predicted the Niac decision could speed up the vaccine rollout for those aged 60-69, while other vaccine choices remain available for younger age groups when their turn comes.