One million people will receive both does by end of March
Every person in the country will have received a Covid-19 vaccination by September, the Minister for Health has told the Dáil.
Minister Stephen Donnelly said Ireland would receive 3.3 million doses of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine when approval for use is given by the European Medicines Agency, as expected on January 29.
He said Ireland was trying to get advance supplies of the vaccine before formal authorisation of use, as otherwise it would be mid-February .
But every citizen would then be able to receive the vaccine by September because the Oxford Astra Zeneca vaccine is a game-changer, he said.
It is more easily storable and usable, and was produced on a “not for profit” basis. This country will receive 200,000 doses a month.
“You don’t have to be a citizen, it’s for anybody who’s here,” Mr Donnelly told TDs.
‘We are on target (for vaccines). By Sunday we will have hit nearly half — 70,000 — of 150,000 frontline healthcare workers.”
“From Sunday, notwithstanding the outliers, the nursing homes will have been done,” he said.
Meanwhile 40,000 doses a week of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab were being received and an initial shipment from Moderna of 4,000 to 6,000 doses had been received.
About 94,000 people have received the vaccine by last Sunday he said. This included residents aged over 65 in long-term care settings and nursing home staff.
One million people will have received both doses of the vaccine by the end of March, with 400,000 people having received at least one dose.
The government hopes to start vaccinating people aged over 70 next month and by the end of March, it is hoped that healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff and people aged over 70 will be vaccinated.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the prioritisation list for the vaccine “should be reviewed” at the that point.
“When we have those three groups done, then that might be the time for [the National Immunisation Advisory Committee] to review and look at the prioritisation order again, but I don’t think anyone’s in doubt that those three groups are the ones that need to get it first," he told the Dáil.
Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly said he was disappointed by allegations that some vaccines were being politically diverted from priority groups which he had heard from one member of the Opposition, and saoid it was not true.
“There is no political involvement in this. There are operational decisions.”
The political involvement had been to adopt the priority scheduling proposed by NIAC, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.
Mr Donnelly said he was aware of three hospitals – the Rotunda, the Coombe and Kerry — where the protocols on prioritisation of the vaccine had not been followed.
But he added: “You don’t need a protocol to know you do not vaccinate family members.”
The chair of the Coombe maternity hospital has now engaged a Senior Counsel “to establish all the facts” in an independent review, he said.
Some family member were administered vaccines in the Coombe earlier this month after 16 jabs were found to be left over.
Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe said the Government had to “up its game” in terms of stressing and explaining the safety of the vaccine. He asked what the HSE was doing to combat the disinformation campaign springing up online.
Mr Donnelly confirmed all vaccinations were being recorded and there would be a electronic record for all of them. When there was a wider rollout to the over-70s it would be wholly electronic, the minister added.
He said he agreed wholeheartedly on disinformation. But he said new research on the public view of the vaccine showed the positive public attitude had moved markedly in the right direction.