Coalition fails in bid to source extra Covid-19 vaccines from EU and UK

No plan to seek additional medicine beyond EU framework despite mounting political pressure

Senior Government figures admit to growing pressure concerning the pace of vaccination. File photograph: Getty

Senior Government figures admit to growing pressure concerning the pace of vaccination. File photograph: Getty

 

The Government has sought without success to source extra vaccines from other European Union countries and from the UK but has no plans to seek extra supplies from outside the EU framework, a spokesman said last night as pressure on the Coalition mounts over the slow supply of vaccines.

The Government also sought to convince pharma companies Pfizer and Merck to manufacture vaccines in Ireland to boost supply.

It offered to assist with the cost of reconfiguring plants in Cork and Carlow to produce the medicine, but was unsuccessful.

“Ireland is trying everything it can,” said a Coalition spokesman. “There have been discussions with pharmaceutical firms, there’s been discussions with other countries . . . For instance, we were looking at the redistribution of unused vaccines within the EU. But they don’t exist because every member state needs their supplies . . . People have asked the UK. The British prime minister made it clear that they need all their supplies.”

Sources later said that the French and German governments had been approached to ascertain if they could share unused vaccines, but Irish efforts were rebuffed.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
566 117
Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
9,452,860 7,856,558

The Taoiseach also discussed the matter with British prime minister Boris Johnson, said the spokesman.

However, the Government confirmed that it would not seek any further supplies outside the EU distribution framework.

Repeated failures

Political sources admitted to anxiety in Government about the difficulties with supply under the EU’s programme. While Ireland is using available vaccines quicker than many EU countries, repeated failures to deliver by suppliers have led to targets being missed in recent weeks.

While senior Government figures admit to growing pressure on the pace of vaccination, especially when compared with Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, there is optimism that things will improve quickly in the second quarter of the year as supplies increase.

Because of supply issues, overall vaccination targets for the end of March will fall from 1.2 million to about 1.1 million, said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

The daily rate of hospitalisations and new cases of the virus continue to decline. Yesterday there were 311 new cases, the lowest daily number since December 14th, along with 30 further deaths notified.

Meanwhile, in a robust statement Catholic bishops asked that public worship be allowed restart once Level 5 restrictions are eased which Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “surprised” him.

“For people of faith not to be free to worship until regulations return to Level 2, whilst many other restrictions are eased, is seen as particularly distressing and unjust,” said the bishops.

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