DUBLIN — Ireland will stop using the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on most people under the age of 60 because of the potential danger of rare blood clots, complicating a delay-prone rollout.
The government accepted its experts’ advice Monday night to restrict use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which had been earmarked for a fifth of upcoming vaccinations, particularly of health care workers and adults with high-risk medical conditions. Hospitals cancelled all clinics due to administer the vaccine on Tuesday.
Ireland joins a growing list of European countries that have stopped giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under a certain age, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany. European regulators last week confirmed a “possible link” between the jab and “very rare” cases of blood clotting, but backed continued use of it in all adults.
A government official told POLITICO that at least 50,000 people who have received a first dose of Vaxzevria — the brand name for AstraZeneca’s product — could receive a different vaccine as their second dose.
The new policy specifies that second doses of Vaxzevria should be restricted to those aged 60 and older, or with high-risk conditions, while others will have their second scheduled dose delayed for four weeks.
The U-turn means Vaxzevria chiefly will be used on people in their 60s, pending more data on clotting risks. Until now, Ireland has used other vaccines for people aged 70 or older, citing insufficient clinical evidence of Vaxzevria’s efficacy on the elderly.
Ireland hopes to roll out the single-jab Janssen vaccine this month, but the restrictions on the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab raise doubts about the government’s ability to meet its goal of fully inoculating the population by September.
Monday’s announcement came hours after Ireland fully reopened its schools for the first time since Christmas and eased a rule requiring people to stay within 5 kilometers of their home.
The Irish have relied chiefly on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination with about 776,000 doses administered, versus fewer than 235,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca shots.
Barely 313,000 of Ireland’s 4.9 million residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest data.