The largest garda union in the country will be “demanding answers” about why 500 gardaí under the age of 60 received the AstraZeneca vaccine just 24 hours before the HSE announced it was withdrawing it from use for those under 60.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended at the beginning of last week that the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to people under the age of 60.
The HSE cancelled planned AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination clinics for those under this age from Tuesday. However, 500 gardaí received the jab on Monday.
Philip McAnenly, general secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), told the Sunday Independent: “I have very serious concerns over the issue that has been raised.
"I will be demanding answers around the timeline when the HSE became aware of problems with the AstraZeneca vaccine and when it was raised with garda management.”
A security source said many officers were concerned that they received the AstraZeneca vaccine because of their age profile.
“We all got the jab, then hours later in emerges it isn’t fit for people under 60 and is being withdrawn. I am appalled and shocked we were still vaccinated,” said the source.
"It was known that the plan to withdraw it was in motion but they still gave it to 500 frontline gardaí under 60. As far as we’re concerned, if any officer gets a clot, they would have good grounds for a legal case against the HSE.”
When contacted, the HSE defended its decision to vaccinate hundreds of gardaí with AstraZeneca on Monday.
The HSE said in a statement to this newspaper: “In keeping with the policy to vaccinate those working in the system of mandatory hotel quarantine, Minister Donnelly had agreed with Minister McEntee that we would vaccinate the members of An Garda Síochána and other Justice officers who have direct contact with people in the system of mandatory hotel quarantine.
"These personnel are closely engaging with passengers arriving from countries with variants of concern and every precaution must be taken to provide them with protection while also mitigating as many risks as possible regarding the importation of variant strains of the virus.”
The 500 gardaí who got their first jab on Monday include officers at Dublin Airport attached to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) involved in hotel quarantine, some public order units, some officers from Ballymun also involved in quarantine and a small number of officers from the Special Detective Unit (SDU).
The move to vaccinate these officers followed an earlier request by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.