COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® safety update

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as safe and effective, whose benefits outweigh the risks, following a review of potential side effects carried out this week.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), which is the expert group that advises on vaccination in Ireland, has recommended that vaccination with COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca should recommence. The HSE will now resume using the AstraZeneca vaccine within our ongoing COVID-19 vaccination programme. Hospitals, CHOs, service providers and clinicians will be supporting colleagues and patients who will now be invited for their vaccine.

Background:

  • COVID-19 is a serious disease which has caused significant illness and death across the world including Ireland. COVID-19 vaccines have been developed and authorised for use after rigorous testing and have a favourable safety profile.
  • More than 129,000 doses of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® have been given to people in Ireland so far, mainly in frontline healthcare workers, and we can already see the significant reduction in cases of COVID-19 disease in this group since the vaccine programme began.
  • On 14th March, NIAC recommended a temporary pause of in the use of COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca®.
  • This was because there had been a small number of very rare cases of blood clots in people who had received the vaccine in other European countries. These very rare blood clots were associated with low levels of blood platelets (platelets help blood to clot), with or without bleeding, including rare cases of clots in the vessels draining blood from the brain (CVST- cerebral venous sinus thrombosis).
  • While the EMA investigated this, NIAC recommended pausing the use of the vaccine in Ireland pending the outcome.
  • On 18th March, the EMA safety committee reported on the results of their investigation.
  • NIAC reviewed this information from the EMA and on 19th March recommended that vaccination with COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca® should recommence.
  • THE HSE will resume administering the AstraZeneca vaccine tomorrow (Saturday 20th).

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