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GPs are asked to use AstraZeneca vaccines in stock before expiry

Around 100 GP practices have been asked to use up stocks of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine before they go out of date, the Medical Independent (MI) has learned.

The stocks were delivered to practices earlier this month, shortly before changes in the vaccination rollout were introduced advising use of mRNA vaccines only in patients in vulnerable at-risk groups 4a and 7.

First dose vaccines for cohort 4a patients were due to start being received by GP practices this week, from 26 April.

Cohort 4 refers to those aged 16-69 with a medical condition that puts them at very-high risk of severe disease and death. GPs have been requested to vaccinate patients in this group with specific conditions only, namely poorly controlled diabetes; obesity (patients with a BMI over 40); chronic respiratory disease where a patient is on home oxygen or who has had a hospital admission in the past year.

Any patients who are not identified will be offered a vaccine as the programme progresses through subsequent allocation groups, according to the HSE.

Speaking to MI, IMO GP Chairperson Dr Denis McCauley said that practices with AstraZeneca in stock have been asked to administer them to patients before they go out of date.

He confirmed that GPs remained on schedule to complete vaccination of the over-70s before the end of May.

“Over 95 per cent of the over-70s have had their first dose so far,” he said.

Vaccination data shows that by Saturday 24April more than 442,000 first dose vaccines had been administered to the over-70s. It is estimated there are about 490,000 people nationally in this age category.

Dr McCauley welcomed approval for use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Ireland, which he said would likely be administered in mass vaccination centres and pharmacies.

GPs, at this point, appear unlikely to administer AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines and will instead continue with cohorts 4 and 7 using mRNA vaccines.

Once these cohorts have been vaccinated, GPs’ role in the campaign, for a time at least, looks likely to cease, Dr McCauley said.

“A lot of GPs are exhausted and won’t want to see another vaccine until the flu vaccine once they finish cohorts 4 and 7. Others may want to continue. This will depend on two issues -the efficiency of regional vaccination centres and supply.”

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