Today, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly announced a revised vaccine plan that will see young people vaccinated earlier than expected.
This decision follows the recent recommendation by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) on offering AstraZeneca and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines to younger age groups.
Appearing on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Donnelly explained that: “We’re adding an opt-in model for people aged 18 to 34, for Janssen and AstraZeneca, so they can be vaccinated earlier.”
“What it means is that people aged 18 to 34 can now be vaccinated one to two months earlier, which is a huge benefit to them and to our entire society in the face of this Delta surge which we are told is coming.”
Donnelly explained that from Monday 5 July, pharmacies will begin administering Janssen vaccines to people aged 18 to 34 who have contacted their pharmacy to register their interest in being vaccinated.
Pharmacies have been allocated a limited number of vaccines and therefore cannot guarantee that everyone registering their interest will be vaccinated.
“Now supplies are limited, both for AstraZeneca and for Janssen,” Donnelly warned.
According to Donnelly, there are now “two tracks” for Ireland’s vaccination programme: “one is through pharmacies, the second through a portal.” The vaccine rollout plan through the HSE online portal is continuing as normal, with registration for 30 to 34 year olds to receive the mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) vaccines opening from July 9.
From Monday 12 July, the online portal will also open to 18 to 34 year olds to book “mainly AstraZeneca through the vaccine centres,” as well as “some Janssen.”
Around 750 pharmacies across Ireland will begin offering the Janssen vaccine. The pharmacies have currently received 40,000 Janssen doses and are expected to receive an additional 205,000 to 210,000 vaccines in July, with more arriving in August.
Asked whether the “big delivery” of AstraZeneca vaccines this week would be available to younger people, Donnelly said, “it’s a little bit of both.” He explained that the administration of the second dose of AstraZeneca was being accelerated for all cohorts that had already received the first dose.
Aiming to have those people fully vaccinated by July 12, approximately 100,000 remaining AstraZeneca vaccines will be available for 18 to 34 year olds.
In total, Donnelly said that over 300,000 Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines would be available for 18 to 34 year olds in July, with “obviously more in August.”
Donnelly added that 18 to 34 year olds who opt-in for the Janssen or AstraZeneca vaccines because they “want to get vaccinated earlier” will get “an mRNA vaccine in the future.”
Donnelly said: “I wanted to make sure … that every vaccine dose that we have, of all four, are used up and are available to people.”
Donnelly’s announcement follows the government’s recent decision to delay the reopening of indoor hospitality, which will be limited to those with a vaccine pass, as well as promises by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris that college students will return to campus in September.