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Varadkar: ‘Back of the queue’ for those who refuse AZ vaccine

An Tanáiste Leo Varadkar has said that people who refuse the AstraZeneca vaccine when offered it will have to wait until the entire country is inoculated before being offered another.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has recently came in for sustained negative attention after some regulators in the EU and further afield recommended restricting its use to people over 60 to prevent the “very rare” side-effect of blood clots in the brain among a small number of young people.

“They would have to wait until the end (of the queue if Irish people refuse the AZ vaccine), and it’s not possible to know when the end would be but it wouldn’t be June or July, it would be later than that,” Varadkar told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“The best option is the vaccine that’s offered to you, and all the vaccines are effective and they’re safe for the age groups they’re indicated for.”

The Fine Gael leader said he was “confident” that 80 per cent of adults would be offered an injection by the end of June, in a prediction he explained was as “solid as it can be.”

Varadkar also indicated that only vaccinated people would be able to travel freely in Europe over the short-term.

“The European Union is developing a green cert, and we could see within months, people being able to travel again freely within the European Union, if they’re fully vaccinated,” he claimed.

“I know there has been a lot of news in the last couple of days about vaccines and quarantine, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture, for the first time this year the number of people in hospitals is below 200, the number in ICU is below 50 cases, the R number is below one, kids are back to school, the 5km rule is gone, we’re building again.”

“Over the course of the month of May there will be a phased reopening of personal services including hairdressers and barbers, but what we’ll also do at the end of April, which not so far away now…it’s only two weeks away, (and then) we’ll develop the plan for June and July.”

The Taináiste admitted however that there was an economic cost in cutting Ireland off for “too long” with mandatory hotel quarantining requirements, as well as legal question marks remaining over the policy.

“Just because we made a decision to go down this route doesn’t mean those problems went away. There are major legal, practical, political and humanitarian issues with this policy, and they are now playing out in court challenges and with capacity issues.”

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