Q&A: How will Ireland get vaccines via the EU?

Doses are distributed according to population and groups such as healthcare workers are recommended to be first in line

Plans around the vaccine rollout are to be finalised

Plans around the vaccine rollout are to be finalised


The European Commission is due to finalise a contract for up to 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech that was recently shown to be effective in an initial trial on Wednesday.

The EU has already signed similar contracts for different vaccines under development by pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Johnson & Johnson.

How were the vaccines selected?

The EU strategy was to sign advance delivery orders for promising vaccines, in order to fund their quick development and manufacture, and to ensure that Europe would get the soonest possible doses of whatever vaccine is ultimately approved for use.

There are dozens of vaccines in development around the world, but so far these four have been picked as those most likely to be successful, based on factors such as the soundness of scientific approach and the likely speed of delivery at scale.

How many doses would Ireland get?

Under the agreement, all EU member states would get the first vaccines simultaneously, and doses would be allocated according to population size.

Ireland makes up roughly 1.01 per cent of the EU population, so would be in line for approximately 3,030,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, if it is ultimately approved and all of the 300 million doses are ordered.

The Pfizer vaccine is a two-dose treatment, so that would be enough to inoculate 1,515,000 people. 

But that’s not enough for everyone?

It’s up to member states to decide who should be first in line for the vaccine. The European Commission has suggested prioritising people such as: healthcare and long-term care facility workers; people aged over 60; people with health conditions that make them high-risk; essential workers; people who cannot socially distance; and more socio-economically disadvantaged groups.

Doses would arrive in batches rather than all at once, so the Government would have to decide who to vaccinate first.

Anything else to bear in mind?

The Government has a big job ahead in the administration of any vaccine. The Pfizer doses must be stored at approximately minus 75 degrees Celsius, requiring cold storage facilities and supply chains.

In addition, a trained workforce must administer it, who will all need protective equipment. The Government would also have to explain to the public that it is important and safe to be inoculated.

A recent survey found that 33 per cent of people in Ireland were unsure whether they would take a Covid-19 vaccine and 12 per cent said they would not take it.