Statement from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee regarding its recommendations on the use of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® in older adults

Statement from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has issued recommendations on the use of the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® in older adults.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has advised that any of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorised can be given to adults of all ages, including those aged 70 and older.

Vaccination of this age cohort should not be delayed. Where practicable and timely, those aged 70 and older should be given an mRNA vaccine. In clinical trials, the Comirnaty® Pfizer/BioNTech and COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna® vaccines were associated with higher overall protection which supports the preference to use them in those at highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19.

Commenting on the advice, Prof Karina Butler, Chair of the NIAC, said: “It is welcome news that there are now three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Ireland that will protect adults against severe disease and hospitalisation. The COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® will now be added to the immunisation programme. It is important to say that best vaccine anyone can receive at this time is the vaccine that can be soonest administered.

“While there are limited clinical data regarding COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® in older adults, there is nothing to indicate that it will be less effective than in the younger population. The authorised mRNA vaccines, available in Ireland (Comirnaty® Pfizer/BioNTech and COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna®) are associated with higher levels of protection than COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca®, which makes them preferable for use in those at highest risk of hospitalisation who are those over 70 years of age.

“The COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® provides protection for all adults, reduces the overall burden of infection and new data suggests that it may have a substantial effect on reducing transmission of the virus. Notably, this vaccine was very effective in preventing hospitalisations, with no hospitalisations in vaccine recipients from 14 days after the first dose” Prof Butler said.  

The recommendation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for a conditional marketing authorisation for the COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® in those 18 years and older is welcome news. In Ireland, as we approach the new milestone of 200,000 cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection, of whom over 3,000 have died, each new weapon to fight SARS-CoV-2 is a welcome addition.

The NIAC made the recommendations based on the available evidence and were aware of decisions taken by other European states. All the currently authorised vaccines have proven to be effective in preventing severe COVID-19 disease, which is the primary aim of the vaccination programme.

While there are limited clinical data regarding COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® in older adults, there is nothing to indicate that it will be less effective than in the younger population.

These recommendations are based on current data and are subject to ongoing review. 

Learn more about the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). 

Recommendations for the use of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca® in Ireland

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