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GPs advised to ‘store’ AstraZeneca vaccine pending further updates

GP practices with Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines in stock have been advised to “store appropriately but not administer to patients” following changes to the national Covid-19 vaccination programme.

The IMO issued the advice as part of an email update to GPs on Wednesday night (14 April) after the national immunisation advisory committee (NIAC) recommended against the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under 60.  The NIAC recommendation followed a decision of the European Medicines Agency to add unusual clotting events with low platelet counts as very rare side effects to the vaccine product information.

To date, around 1,200 GP practices have signed up to provide vaccinations to at-risk allocation groups 4a and 7.

“Guidance on AstraZeneca vaccine held within general practice will be provided as soon as it is available,” GPs were informed.

Patients in cohorts 4a and 7 will now receive the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine following programme changes.

The IMO advised that practices which had been using Moderna for the over-70s “will be facilitated in so far as possible with the continuation of Moderna but this is completely dependent on supply and the requirement to deploy mRNA to other vaccine administration sites”.

“As a consequence, there may be a requirement for GPs who have been in receipt of Moderna for cohort 3 [over-70s] to switch to Pfizer for cohorts 4 and 7.”

The age range in cohorts 4 and 7 have been adjusted to 18-59 years, meaning that the numbers eligible for vaccination in GP practices have fallen from about 500,000 to 400,000 people.

This includes around 120,000 in cohort 4 and about 300,000 in cohort 7, according to the IMO.

On Wednesday the HSE invited people aged between 65 to 69 to register for vaccination on the HSE portal.

Due to the changes, renewed timelines have been issued to GPs on vaccine deliveries.

GPs are due to receive first doses for cohort 4 on one of the following weeks, 26 April, 3 May or 10 May.  Second doses for cohort 4 and first doses for cohort 7 will be delivered over a four-week period up to 7 June.

Second dose deliveries for cohort 7 will also take place over a four-week period and end on the week of 5 July. All patients within cohort 7 should therefore be completely vaccinated by this time.

The guidance pointed out that GPs will be administering second doses to the over-70s as they commence giving first doses to patients in cohort 4.

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