Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE, has said that we have another year of restrictions ahead before the number of people vaccinated would be sufficient to protect the public in general from Covid-19.
Social distancing and restrictions in some form are likely for the rest of 2021 at least, until enough of the population can be vaccinated to grant general or herd immunity, Dr Henry said.
Speaking to Máirín Ní Ghadhra on Raidió na Gaeltachta, Dr Henry added that it was now more important than ever that the public abides by the health guidelines.
“The answer, and not everyone likes it but it’s the truth ... is that the public in general won’t have protection from Covid-19 for at least a year ... In the meantime, it’s more important than ever to abide by the public health guidance so that we can stop the spread of the virus.”
“We’re in the middle of the main wave now ... and we can see the damage that has been wrought. The vaccine is coming, and we’ll come out of this if we can stick to the public health guidelines until everyone has been vaccinated.”
Dr Henry, in response to the criticism of the speed of the vaccine rollout, said that it would be impossible to go any faster.
“We’re giving out the vaccine as fast as we’re getting it in ... we’re not keeping any back, save a very small amount for the second dose, so the vaccine is going out as fast as it’s coming in, and that’s the truth.”
In response to a question about schools being able to reopen and teachers receiving a higher priority, he said that it was most important firstly that health workers got the vaccine.
“It’s important that we can offer protection to healthcare workers, not just to give them protection themselves, but to protect the health services, as we’re losing workers every day who are out because of the virus.”
In relation to GPs getting the vaccine, Dr Henry comfirmed that some work had started on that in the south of the country, that some GPs would be included in the care homes schemes, and that they were also working on a specific scheme for GPs.
“We’re putting a specific scheme together for GPs together with the IMO and the ICGP so that the GPS and their teams can get the vaccine as soon as possible. We’re relying entirely on how much vaccine we’re getting from the EU and we can’t go any faster than the amount we have and the amount we will receive. “
Over 800 GPs are to be vaccinated today in Phoenix Park in a makeshift mass vaccination centre.