Covid-19: Ireland’s vaccine body proposes AstraZeneca suspension

The suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ireland has been proposed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

It came after a report from Norway on serious blood clotting events in adults who received the vaccine.

Irish Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said the decision was taken “on the precautionary principal”.

The World Health Organisation has said there was no link between the jab and an increased risk of developing a clot.

On Friday, the World Health Organisation said countries should not stop using the vaccine over fears it causes blood clots as there is no indication this is true.

In a statement on Sunday. Dr Glynn said the new information was received from the Norwegian Medicines Agency on Saturday night.

“It has not been concluded that there is any link between the Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca and these cases.

“However, acting on the precautionary principal, and pending receipt of further information, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended the temporary deferral of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca vaccination programme in Ireland.”

In a statement to RTÉ, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca said that an analysis of safety data covering more than 17 million doses of the vaccine administered has shown no evidence of an increased risk of the conditions concerned, and that no trends or patterns were observed in clinical trials.

The NIAC is due to meet on Sunday morning to discuss the issue and will make a statement following the meeting.

Source: BBC

Coronavirus: AstraZeneca jab recommended for Ireland’s over 70s

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine has been recommended for people aged over 70 in the Republic of Ireland.

In fresh advice, the country’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) said there should not be a delay in its use, RTÉ reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna jabs had previously been approved for over-70s.

About 100,000 people in this age group have been vaccinated in the country, with 500,000 yet to receive one.

In its previous advice on 2 February, NIAC recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine only be administered to people aged under-65 amid concerns about the available data on its efficacy for older age groups.

Following this, Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan recommended that it not be used for people aged over 70.

A number of other EU countries, such as France and Germany, also limited its use, while France’s President Emmanuel Macron claimed the vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” for over-65s.

In March, both countries revised their policies.

Dr Ronan Glynn
image captionDr Ronan Glynn is expected to deliver the revised recommendation to the Irish government

The EU drugs regulator had approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups, however, it was up to each member state to set its own roll-out policy.

RTÉ said Ireland’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn is expected to report the latest NIAC recommendation to government shortly.

Supply criticism

It follows a claim by the European Council President Charles Michel who accused the UK of imposing an “outright ban” on the export of coronavirus vaccines.

He said it applied to all vaccines and components produced in the UK.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab responded that the claim was “completely false”.

The Irish government has also been critical of the number of AstraZeneca vaccines delivered to the bloc.

On Thursday, Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) Leo Varadkar said the company’s explanations “are not satisfactory” and other providers had honoured their commitments “give or take a few glitches”.

Coronavirus: Republic of Ireland extends restrictions to 5 April

The Republic of Ireland is to continue at its highest level of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions until at least 5 April.

The widely expected decision to maintain Level Five was taken at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

But primary schools will re-open on Monday for the four young youngest ages groups, the equivalent of primaries one to four.

Final year secondary students will also return then.

Other pupils and students will resume their schooling in a phased manner over the coming weeks along with pre-school childcare.

On Tuesday, 45 further coronavirus-related deaths were reported, four of them in January, taking the country’s total to 4,181.

There have been 216,300 positive cases identified after an additional 575 were identified.

The Irish government has decided to take a cautious approach to easing its lockdown, arguing that its aim is the long-term suppression of the virus.

Its vaccination programme is several weeks behind Northern Ireland’s and has been hampered by supply issues and the relatively late authorisation of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the European Medicines Agency.

But the Republic of Ireland is near the top of the EU league in vaccinating people, once the injections arrive in the state.

While around a third of the population north of the border has had its first injection, just over 4% in the Republic have got their jab, although slightly more people south of the border have had their second dose.

Dublin vaccine centre
image captionThe Republic’s vaccination programme is several weeks behind efforts in Northern Ireland

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin said it was “critically important” that people do not let down their guard, but he acknowledged the country was “physically and mentally exhausted” by restrictions.

“Essentially, to open up our country safely, we need to keep the numbers of new infections low and accelerate the vaccination programme in line with improving supply,” he explained.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday, he said by the end of April more than 40% of people over 18 will have had a first vaccine dose and up to 82% by the end of June.

Mr Martin said non-Covid health and social care services would resume “over the coming weeks” and there would be a review ahead of 5 April.

By this date, the government will decide either to continue with the lockdown or ease restrictions for industries such as construction.

Last week, Mr Martin suggested in a newspaper the current restrictions could last until the beginning of May.

With more than 90% of current Covid cases linked to the highly-transmissible UK variant the government has decided on caution.

Last weekend, the first three cases of the Brazilian variant were recorded.

Eleven cases of the South African variant were reported at the start of January, but none since then.

By Shane Harrison
BBC News

Covid-19: Irish government rules out checks on Irish border

The Irish government has reiterated its promise not to carry out checks on the NI border to manage the spread of Covid-19.

image captionThe NI Executive has expressed concerns about the sharing of passenger travel data from Irish authorities

Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told RTÉ News it had “never been on the table”.

The Stormont Executive has been involved in discussions with Irish officials this week about the sharing of travel data.

Some NI ministers had raised concerns about a lack of co-operation.

Mr Donnelly said a “two-island strategy” was being explored to clarify “if there is merit to us closely aligning the border control measures for the UK and for Ireland”.

He said he supported a “zero Covid strategy”, but that it would not happen by the government sealing the border with NI.

On Tuesday the Republic of Ireland tightened its travel rules, which will affect passengers arriving who then travel on to Northern Ireland.

Existing Passenger Locator Form rules are to be amended to ensure NI-bound passengers complete the full form by providing a forwarding contact address.

Currently, people who arrive in the Republic and travel to Northern Ireland do not have to complete all sections of the Republic’s Passenger Locator Forms, which are used to track and trace travellers.

Dublin Airport
image captionThe number of passengers travelling into Dublin Airport has reduced dramatically

The changes were announced as Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin outlined a series of stringent new measures affecting all overseas passengers arriving into the Republic of Ireland.

Quarantine hotels?

The plans include a “mandatory quarantine at a designated facility” for anyone arriving into Irish ports or airports without proof they have tested negative for Covid-19.

Meanwhile, Stormont ministers have been briefed on new plans by the UK government to place some passengers arriving in England into quarantine in hotels.

Boris Johnson said Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove had chaired a four-nations call on Wednesday.

The first and deputy first ministers and Health Minister Robin Swann were among those who took part.

The prime minister said he hoped there could be close co-operation to implement quarantine plans to ensure “where possible” a UK-wide approach continues.

Mr Swann wrote to executive ministers earlier this week asking them to consider the option of “quarantine hotels”, along with other proposals to tighten travel rules.

It is understood that issue will be raised again at Thursday’s executive meeting.

In an attempt to curb the spread of new variants of coronavirus, people arriving into the Republic of Ireland from Brazil and South Africa will also be automatically required to quarantine at a designated facility.

In the coming weeks, the government also intends to make it a legal requirement for everyone who arrives in the state from overseas to quarantine in their own homes, hotels or other accommodation.

However, legislative changes will be needed in order to enforce quarantine for Irish and EU citizens as well as those from the European Economic Area.

Speaking in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) on Wednesday, Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald called for 14-day mandatory quarantining for all who arrive on the island – north and south.

She described the government’s plans to continue the Republic of Ireland’s lockdown until 5 March as half-measures and unenforceable, adding that “unnecessary international travel cannot be countenanced”.

Mr Martin said his government and the Northern Ireland Executive were working in a constructive fashion.

Irish police seize €1m in cash after van stopped in County Kildare

Gardaí (Irish police) have seized more than €1m (£900,200) in cash as part of an operation targeting organised crime.

Shrink-wrapped euros

The money was found in a van intercepted on the M7 in County Kildare on Friday at about 06:30 local time.

A 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of a number of charges and is currently in police custody.

Another €10,000 (£9,000) was found in a follow-up search in the Midlands resulting in about €10,000 (£9,000) also being seized.

Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll said it was a “significant advance in our attempt to dismantle organised crime group”.

Police said their investigation continues.