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Urban-rural divide emerges in the roll-out of vaccines to elderly people

Major overhaul of plan folowing decision on AstraZeneca

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A study from Oxford AstraZeneca says its vaccine can reduce transmission. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

A study from Oxford AstraZeneca says its vaccine can reduce transmission. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

A study from Oxford AstraZeneca says its vaccine can reduce transmission. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

The over-70s are facing a postcode lottery for where they will receive their Covid-19 vaccine.

Those in urban areas are likely to be vaccinated in large GP practices and people in rural Ireland having to travel to a specially converted centre such as a parish hall, it emerged today.

HSE chief Paul Reid said the decision not to give the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to this group and administered as planned by GPs, calls for an major overhaul.

The plan for GPs to dispense to their patients in their surgeries would only be possible in cities and towns where there are large practices with multiple doctors.

Outside of these areas vaccination hubs will need to set up and patients will have to travel to them to get the jab.

The taskforce overseeing the roll-out is meeting this afternoon to discuss how this will operate.

It will be necessary to have space in vaccination centres for observation areas, administration and refrigeration.

The decision was made yesterday to make the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines the preferential jabs for the over-70s because there is still not enough evidence to show how much protection the AstraZeneca vaccine gives to older people.

He said the aim was to still have given a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to the near half a million over- 70s by the end of March but this will be a big challenge.

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It is dependent on Pfizer and Moderna increasing weekly deliveries of doses.

Location of vaccination centres has yet to be finalised.

Among the major hurdles is the need to ensure vaccines are maintained at a low temperature.

Under the revised national vaccine plan it is hoped the vaccination of over-85s will go ahead as planned on February 15. They will be followed by over-80s, over-75s and over-70s.

GP hubs will be set up around the country to administer Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Meanwhile, the vaccination of non-frontline health workers is to be brought forward and will begin next week on February 8.

The HSE is getting around 40,000 doses a week from Pfizer but the hope is that this will increase.

Moderna’s deliveries are less reliable and should be 10,000 doses a week.

Some deliveries will also have to be held back next week to ensure there are second doses available for residents of long term care facilities.

Around 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are due to be delivered here before the end of March and these vaccines will now be offered to thousands of frontline healthcare workers still waiting for their first dose.

Doses will also be offered to healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact and were originally earmarked to vaccinated after the over-70s.

However, because the HSE is now giving second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to long term care residents and staff, as well as frontline healthcare workers, there may be less to share with the over-70s. He said they would do “everything in their power” to give all the over-70s a first dose by the end of March .There is a 28 day gap between the first a second dose.

So far 219,000 doses have been administered including first and second doses.

The HSE will be holding new talks with GPs.

Meanwhile, there were 1,308 patients with Covid-19 in hospital today. Intensive care beds have 305 patients, including those who do not have the virus and they are still in surge capacity.

Dr Colm Henry, HSE head of clinical care said the system is still too heated “to have any level of comfort”.

Separately, the fall in the spread of the virus still has to have significant impact on levels of infection in nursing homes and other residential centres.

There are currently 560 outbreaks in hospitals and residential care facilities. Of these 132 are in hospitals and the worst hit areas are in the south and east regions.

Currently around one in three nursing homes is dealing with an outbreak. There are 47 which are getting intensive support from the HSE.

There are 4,600 health staff out due to Covid-19, including 2,800 hospital workers.


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