IMO expects vaccine hesitancy after AstraZeneca restriction

GPs say some patients have concerns around clotting but majority want to be vaccinated

It would be “naive” to say there will not be some vaccine hesitancy due to the many discussions about rare blood clotting connected to the AstraZeneca jab, according to Dr Denis McCauley of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) .

Chairman of the GP Committee of the IMO, Dr McCauley said there will “of course” be a small number of people who are reluctant to receive the coronavirus vaccine following the decision taken by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on Monday evening to restrict the use of AstraZeneca to people aged over 60.

“The more talk there is about the risks of any vaccine the more people will say: ‘Well, I’m not having that one.’ That is just standard,” he said, adding that it would be “naive” to say otherwise.

However, he said people should “never underestimate” the fear felt by people in their 50s and 60s about catching the coronavirus. “I think there is probably a discussion in their minds… They need to speak to somebody so they can hear the positives and the negatives and make a reasoned decision,” he said.


Dr McCauley said he suspects the “vast majority” of people over the age of 60 will proceed with the vaccine.

“But there will be people who won’t and I think this present discussion will have contributed to that. That is without a doubt,” he said.

Effective vaccine

Roscommon-based general practitioner Dr Brendan Crosbie said the “overwhelming majority” of patients getting in touch in relation to the vaccine are keen to receive their jab, regardless of brand.

“The vast majority of people want a vaccine as soon as possible, and they want whatever one comes first... They want restrictions to ease and also to move on to some sort of normality,” he said.

Dr Crosbie said the clinic has fielded much fewer enquiries from people hesitant about vaccination. Most of these people want to discuss the risks of the vaccine, while there have been “one or two instances where people are very anti-AstraZeneca”, he said.

A small number of patients with a previous history of clotting have been in contact to talk through their concerns, he said. There was just one vaccine-related query by 10 am on Tuesday morning.

While he has already been vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine as a frontline GP, Dr Crosbie said he would have “no hesitancy” taking the AstraZeneca vaccine himself or giving it to a family member. He said he believes it is a “very effective and very good vaccine”.

“Provided people are in the right cohort age-wise I would not have any hesitation recommending it to patients,” he said.


Niac made a “really safe decision” Dr McCauley went on, adding that he anticipates GPs will be able to adapt to it. There will now be an overlay of demographics, as there are now two different vaccines being given to people in Cohort 4, who are aged under 70 and who are high risk.

People who are high risk and between 60 and 70 will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, while those under the age of 60 will be given an alternative brand.

Thought must be given to whether the vaccination priority list of Cohort 4 can be maintained as it currently stands, Dr McCauley said.

“That has to be planned out… When are the vaccinations going to be given and by whom?” Dr McCauley asked.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is High Court Reporter with The Irish Times