Community vaccination to begin within weeks but AstraZeneca vaccine issue to hit delivery admits health minister

'Everything that can be done is being done' claims Minister for Health

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

Community vaccination to begin within weeks but AstraZeneca vaccine issue to hit deliver admits health minister

Community vaccination will begin as planned in mid-February, subject to regulatory approval and 143,000 cumulative vaccine doses administered to January 24 according to the Mister for health

Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD has confirmed that the vaccination of the third group in the Government’s Vaccine Allocation Strategy will begin in three weeks but it will be impacted by AstraZeneca issues.

Under the Vaccine Allocation Strategy, people aged 70 and older will be vaccinated in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, 70-74.

Minister Donnelly said said the programme can begin but 

“Today we have confirmed that the community vaccination programme will begin in February, subject to regulatory approval of AstraZeneca. Despite the anticipated disruption to deliveries, which was announced on Friday 22 January, Ireland will receive a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine within the expected range for February, although at the lower end of that range.  Delivery in March is likely to be more impacted and considerably lower than what was originally stated by the company. We continue to prioritise those most vulnerable to COVID-19 in our society against the backdrop of a limited supply of vaccines.

“For the moment, people do not need to take any specific action.  The next stage of our vaccine programme will begin with those aged 85 years and older and will be administered initially through GPs in their surgeries. The HSE is preparing a public information campaign that will provide all necessary details in advance and ensure that everyone knows when, where and how to access their vaccine," he said.

Minister Donnelly also gave an update on the progress of the vaccination programme.

“In the meantime, completing vaccinations for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection remains the priority.  Every possible nursing home resident has already received one dose and some have received second doses.  Healthcare workers are also a priority. Second doses will be administered over the coming weeks to 77,000 healthcare workers. We will continue to roll out first and second doses to our remaining frontline healthcare workers during February.

“Our vaccination teams were unable to vaccinate some nursing homes residents and staff who had COVID-19 recently or vaccinate those in some facilities where there were particularly large outbreaks. I would like to reassure those staff and residents that they will be prioritised and vaccinated as soon as possible and in line with the guidelines drawn up by our National Immunisation Advisory Council.

“The HSE administered 143,000 vaccine doses to Sunday, January 24.  I would like to thank the HSE, members of the High-Level Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccination, and their teams, for the effort and commitment they are putting into the efficient roll out of the vaccine programme. As we have seen in recent days, in these early stages things can change quickly and we have to build delivery around supply.  Everyone involved understands the importance of this programme to the country. Everything that can be done is being done and will be done, to deliver it.

“There is huge interest in our vaccine programme, which is very welcome. I committed recently to providing the public with daily figures, as full transparency is important. The HSE has advised that there is a backlog of figures to be inputted and validated. It is working hard to achieve full utilisation of the vaccination IT system at which point it will be in a position to provide updates,” he said.

The AstraZenca vaccine is being seen as suitable for community vaccination because it does not need to be stored at extremely low temperatures. GPs and pharmacists have been contracted to deliver more than 1 million people.

AstraZeneca has told the EU that it must cut its supply by 60%.