Some people may feel left out with the changes in the priority roll-out for vaccination, the chairperson of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has said.

Professor Karina Butler said that if someone is being pushed up the list, others are being pushed down. The NIAC tried to be fair to everyone, she added.

Changes have been made to the vaccination groups, with higher priority for those with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk if they catch Covid-19.

After the over-70s are vaccinated, those aged 16 to 69 at very high risk of disease or death will be immunised.

They will be followed by those aged 65 to 69 years at high risk.

The previous rollout strategy had been criticised by patient advocate groups.

Prof Butler said no decision has been made on moving carers up the list, but she said that the changes are good news for carers if they are caring for someone who will now be vaccinated sooner.

Everyone cannot be vaccinated at the same time, she said, and there are people not included at this stage who may be at higher risk than, for example, a healthy 40-year-old.

At a briefing on the vaccine allocation strategy, she said only the Pfizer vaccine is authorised for use in the age group 16-17.

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She said with this and the changes to priority vaccination, the task force will look at how the latest developments may affect the roll-out.

She said the decisions on revising the rollout list were made after looking at risk by age, what patients were admitted to hospital and ICU, as well as Irish and international evidence.

Prof Butler said that it will all be kept under rolling review.


People with certain conditions moved up on vaccine roll-out strategy


Prof Butler told RTÉ's News at One said that "nothing is going to be perfect, that is why there has to be an element of clinical input" by those who treat patients with chronic conditions.

However, she said the new prioritisation would not apply "for example to everyone with a cancer diagnosis, it has been refined down to certain groups who would fit into that; that's because their risk has been shown to be equivalent, for example, to a 70-year-old".

Prof Butler said the timings for the next stage of prioritisation are being worked out, but stressed it will become easier when more vaccines become available.

She said this will defuse the priority list and some groups may end up being vaccinated in parallel.

Prof Butler said that evidence shows that lengthening the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from eight to 12 weeks may deliver "a better and more lasting immune response".

There is no such evidence about the mRNA vaccines and evidence shows that with just one dose after 28 days the efficacy of the vaccine drifts down.

She said that data from Scotland is encouraging and shows good effectiveness of the AstraZeneca among older people.

But she said this is preliminary and more evidence is needed.

She said for over 65s in Ireland, either vaccine type have been recommended, but for some groups the mRNA vaccines are recommended, including for those on dialysis or some who are immunocompromised.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the evidence available suggests next winter will be very different to what we saw last winter, especially given how effective the vaccine appears in reducing transmission.

He defended the Government's new plan and the warnings on what next winter may be like.

The minister said it was reasonable to be flagging that protection measures may still be needed especially in healthcare settings.

There were unknowns about the virus and vaccination that the Government had to take account of, he added.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the evidence available suggests next winter will be very different to what we saw last winter, especially given how effective the vaccine appears in reducing transmission.

He defended the Government's new plan and the warnings on what next winter may be like.

The minister said it was reasonable to be flagging that protection measures may still be needed especially in healthcare settings.

There were unknowns about the virus and vaccination that the Government had to take account of, he added.