Words: Dylan Murphy
According to The Irish Pharmacy Union, pharmacies could begin to administer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to people under the age of 40 “tomorrow”.
According to a report on RTÉ, currently, pharmacies have 60,000 J&J vaccine doses, but can only administer them to people over the age of 50. However, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said that doses will go to waste because of no shows.
“If the age cohorts are not expanded, who knows how many J&J vaccine doses will ultimately end up going to waste,” CEO Darragh O’Loughlin said.
The HSE confirmed that as of now, 6,000 vaccines have been administered in pharmacies.
The IPU noted that doses were being wasted due to the difficulty of replacing no shows, the vaccine’s short shelf life and because pharmacists are not permitted to give spare vaccines to younger people.
Mr O’Loughlin said that any newly revised HSE protocol can be implemented “that day”.
“Pharmacies have the capacity to vaccinate large numbers of people in their own communities,” he explained.
“Pharmacists want to play their part to re-open society. We hope that the HSE will empower us to do so.”
Mr O’Loughlin explained that “a few” vaccines had went to waste so far, “not hundreds”, but the IPU warned that there is potential for hundreds more vaccines to be wasted if the current restrictions remain in place.
“Where people don’t turn up for an appointment, it can be hard for pharmacies to use those doses” O’Loughlin said.
“As we come into the summer it’s harder to get people at very short notice to come in, so the number of unused vaccine doses, unfortunately, is likely to increase,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
“If each pharmacy had just one or two wasted doses, there could be up to 1,600 unused doses”, he continued.
“It’s a tiny number in each pharmacy but when you aggregate it up across all the pharmacies, it’s a huge number.”
“If the age cohorts are not expanded, who knows how many J&J vaccine doses will ultimately end up going to waste,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
Despite the NIAC recommending that it is preferable for those under 50 to receive an MRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna, it has said people over the age 40 can choose the J&J vaccine.
“What nobody wants to see at this stage in the vaccination programme is perfectly good vaccine doses going to waste because people haven’t turned up and because the cohort that we can use them on is currently so restricted.”
The NIAC will meet today to consider new advice around the administration of the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines.