Ireland will start stockpiling millions of vaccines that cannot be used from mid-July due to age restrictions on AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The deployment will peak next week after experts warn we are in a race against time to get ahead of the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

More than 300,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected this week, and efforts are underway to give more than 450,000 people in the over 60 cohort their second dose of AstraZeneca ahead of schedule.

AstraZeneca will then be stop being used, but millions of doses will continue to arrive in the country.

The state will move to what is described as “vaccine excess availability” with Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca at this point, and a decision will need to be made on what happens to current supply chain agreements.

The head of the working group on vaccines, Professor Brian MacCraith, told the Independent Irish the government should decide what to do with the supplies.

“We have important contracts for several million other AstraZenecas and the government will decide how to deal with them,” he said.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said 18.5 million doses had been ordered and only around 10 million doses would be needed.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be reconsidered for younger age groups in order to combat the spread of the Delta variant.

He believes the Delta variant has shifted the balance of risk when it comes to using these vaccines.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan also wants the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines to be used more widely to ensure stocks are not wasted.

He wrote to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to ask-
find out if these vaccines can be given to young people, including those in their twenties and thirties.

Earlier this week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said talks were underway to change the recommendation that AstraZeneca be used only for people over 50.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the vaccination program rollout and the Ireland coronavirus case rate

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