Those under the age of 50 who have had a Covid-19 infection in the previous six months and are not immunocompromised will be considered “fully vaccinated” after a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The development comes as the Cabinet signed off this afternoon on a number of recommendations from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
Those under the age of 50 with a laboratory-confirmed Covid infection within the previous six months will not receive a second dose of the mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna.
Those aged 50 and older, along with those under the age of 50 who are immunocompromised, will continue to receive a full vaccine schedule of two doses.
Cabinet ministers also gave the green light to a number of other recommendations from Niac:
- Over-50s: Both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines will be administered to people aged 50 and over.
- Pregnant women: Pregnant women between 14 and 36 weeks’ gestation be offered a mRNA vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna.
- Pfizer/Moderna doses: There will be no change in the four-week gap between doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
- AstraZeneca doses over-50s: Those aged 50 or older who have already received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and those under 50 years at very high or high risk of severe Covid disease, will receive their second dose 12 weeks after receipt of their first.
- AstraZeneca doses under-50s: Those under 50 years of age who do not have a very high or high risk of severe Covid disease should have their second AstraZeneca dose 16 weeks after the first dose, to allow for assessment of emerging evidence regarding the risk and benefits of the second dose of this vaccine.
In an update on its vaccine plan following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, the Government said there was “good evidence” behind Niac's advice on the skipping of a second vaccine dose for a portion of those previously infected with Covid-19.
“There is good evidence that those with prior Covid-19 infection who subsequently received a single dose of an mRNA vaccine have a similar antibody response to those who have never had Covid-19 and who had received two doses of an mRNA vaccine,” the Government said in a statement.
“Further, a second dose of an mRNA vaccine in those who have previously had a Covid-19 infection does not appear to increase the power of this immune response.
“There is some evidence that those aged older than 50 years have a less robust immune response than those under 50 years old.”
The Government said the State’s vaccine programme was a “key enabler to the reopening of society and the economy and continues to progress well, with over one million of our citizens now having received the first dose of the vaccine.”
Speaking after Tuesday's Cabinet meeting, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: “What was agreed at Cabinet today is that all vaccines can be used for people who are 50 and over. This is really good news.
“Niac, always putting safety first, have said 50 years and over for Johnson & Johnson.
“And in addition if there are individuals or groups of people for whom a two-dose regiment may be more difficult, so people who are homeless or may be in addiction, then Janssen would be an appropriate vaccine to use there.”
Mr Donnelly added that his department will now work out the details about the vaccination of pregnant women with the HSE.
The Minister said there was not a suggestion that it will be based on age and added that pregnant women can expect to hear in the coming weeks about when they will be vaccinated.
“We only got the advice last night so we’ll work with the HSE now this week to put the protocols in place to make that happen,” he said.
It comes as last week saw more than 180,000 vaccines administered, as those aged 65 to 69 are now beginning to receive their first dose of the vaccine.