NO-ONE WILL be “left behind” by Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme, Dr Colm Henry, the Chief Clinical Officer of the Health Service Executive, has said.
From next Monday, 15 February, around 900 GPs around the country still begin vaccinating over-70s, starting with people aged 85 and over.
Supply issues and the government’s decision that over-70s would not receive the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine, and instead be given the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, looks set to delay the initial deadline to vaccinate this age group.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Henry said the vast majority of people over 70 would be able to transport themselves or be transported to a GP or vaccination centre, but where this wasn’t possible, some will be vaccinated at home “if absolutely necessary”.
Of the 1,300 GP centres in Ireland, 800 to 900 have over 200 older people on their books, Henry noted, adding that GPs will be able to give the vaccine “safely and effectively” in those practices.
For GPs with smaller numbers of older people registered with them, these patients will be vaccinated at vaccine centres – such as the Helix in Dublin or CIT in Cork. The venue for Galway isn’t decided on yet, but will be announced this week.
Around 40 vaccinations centres are being set up around the country.
Smaller GP practices are to “buddy up” with bigger GP practices, Henry said, so that people aged 85 and older can be given the vaccine in those vaccination centres.
Henry said that first doses will be administered to over-70s by mid-April, and that “we will have completed all by mid-May”. Around 43,000 doses of the vaccine are coming into Ireland per week, which is due to increase this month and next month, he added.
“Our aim as much as possible is to go down through the highest age downwards.”
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, HSE CEO Paul Reid said vaccine rollouts are always “bumpy” as new evidence emerges.
“These things change over time, evidence emerges, I had always said this phase of the programme will be bumpy, it has proven to be bumpy.”
Reid noted that many of the vaccination centres are ready now and others will be up and running in the coming weeks.
“Some of the bigger ones, eight or 10 of them, will probably have a staff of about two and a half thousand of various skills and professions working in them, spread across the country, a very significant workforce mobilised to support (the rollout),” Reid said.
Last month Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it was the government’s plan to vaccine every adult in Ireland by September.
Reid today said this goal is dependent on supply issues.
“We know the supply line that has been committed to us for the first quarter,” he said, noting that Ireland is due to get 69,000 of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 110,000 of the Madonna shot, and at least 285,000 of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Reid added that the HSE is taking it “week by week” and that more significant volumes of vaccines are due to arrive in May and June.
Henry said that we are approaching 80,000 healthcare workers who have received their first dose, but that there may be as many as 100-110,000 other healthcare workers – in a variety of settings – that still need to be vaccinated.
He said the aim is to have this done by the end of February. After that, there are around 23-25,000 non-frontline healthcare workers who will be vaccinated.
“Nursing homes are as good as complete”, Henry said, adding that they are adhering to the spirit rather than letter of the priority group, and vaccinating places where old people gather, such as religious congregations.
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As of yesterday, 1,212 people with Covid-19 were in Irish hospitals including 177 in ICU.
A further 1,024 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team said yesterday evening.
In a statement, NPHET said that a further 12 people confirmed to have Covid-19 have died.
The death toll from Covid-19 in Ireland is 3,686, and the total number of confirmed cases is now at 203,568.
With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha