Credit: Houses of the Oireachtas

Varadkar, Martin want AZ jab used on young people despite risks

Táinaiste Leo Varadkar and Taoiseach Micheál Martin have called for the AstraZeneca vaccine to be used on young people within weeks, despite the potential health risks, saying “it would be a shame not to use them.”

I’m not sure that’s what you’d call the most rigorous medical reasoning to be honest.

As it stands, adenovirus vaccines, including the AstraZeneca vaccine and the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, can generally only be used on older people, after it was found that they carry a small but real risk of potentially fatal blood clots in younger people.

Justifying their use in people over 18, Varadkar said that younger people needed to be vaccinated faster to stop the spread of the Delta variant, and that Ireland may have “hundreds of thousands” of spare AstraZeneca vaccines left over lying around after all those over 60 have received the jab.

“It would be a shame not to use them,” he said.

Similarly, the CMO Dr. Tony Holohan has said that the J&J and AstraZenenca vaccines should be given to a younger cohort of people to prevent surplus.

Why we ordered such a massive surplus of vaccines at the taxpayers’ expense is another question altogether. Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said in March: “We have 18 million doses on the way, enough for 10 million people,” and said they were trying to acquire even more at the time.

Vaccines don’t grow on trees – they cost money. To order enough jabs for over 10 million people in a country of 4.9 million is not only massively wasteful, but also tantamount to hoarding doses from other countries who may need it more. I understand ordering a few million extra and diversifying in case of issues with the ones we got, but doubling up seems utterly daft. But that’s for another article altogether.

The fact of the matter is, it’s not like any new data has indicated that the AstraZeneca or J&J jabs are any safer for young people than they were last month. They’re just as safe or dangerous as they ever were to the best of our knowledge.

The argument here seems to be “It wasn’t safe enough to offer to you last week, but this week we need to get rid of them, so here you go.”

Is that really the way to make public health decisions that will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people?

To make matters worse, we appear to be out of step with international experts who our government prizes so highly. According to the Norweigien Institute Of Public Health:

“Since there are few people who die from COVID-19 in Norway, the risk of dying after vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine would be higher than the risk of dying from the disease, particularly for younger people.”

This applies to children as well – but Taoiseach Micheál Martin has already signalled the state’s intention to vaccinate children by the Autumn.

And yet just this week the World Health Organisation changed its advice to say that children should not be vaccinated until further study has been done into vaccines’ safety for their age group:

“Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers. More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.”

While they say that the Pfizer jab is suitable to be used by those 12 years and older, they only say that children over 12 who are at high risk from covid should receive this vaccine.

Why, then, has the government totally disregarded this new advice from the WHO? And more importantly, why has not one so-called journalist in this country asked NPHET or the Health Minister about this at one of the press conferences or briefings?

It’s not like the government can say the WHO don’t know what they’re talking about after all – this is the same State that quadrupled Ireland’s contribution to the World Health Organisation last year after Trump defunded them, just to show how much Ireland valued their sage wisdom and advice.

And yet when they make a recommendation to not vaccinate children or use lockdowns sparingly, our government puts it in the paper shredder.

The way they are going about “public health” is utterly irrational and nonsensical, and major decisions that will affect all of our lives are being made at a whim.

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