Coronavirus: 453 cases reported, taking total since pandemic began past 250,000
HSE issues 707,000 vaccines during April with more than 200,000 to be administered this week
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said almost 200,000 vaccinations were carried out last week. Photograph: Alan Betson
A further 453 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been reported in the State, taking the total since the pandemic began beyond 250,000.
No additional coronavirus-related deaths were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Monday. A total of 4,906 deaths and 250,290 cases have been recorded in the State during the pandemic.
Just over 700,000 Covid-19 vaccines were administered in April, substantially less than the hoped for target of 860,000, HSE figures show.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said earlier that there was “great momentum” on the vaccination programme, tweeting that almost 200,000 thousand vaccinations had been done last week and “over 788,000 done through April”.
“Our revised plan will aim to continue momentum and work down through the ages with available supplies,” Mr Reid said.
HSE sources acknowledged that the 788,000 figure included vaccination numbers from a few days at the end of March and the beginning of May, as these days were counted as “April weeks”.
In the calendar month of April, HSE figures show that just 707,000 doses of the vaccine were administered, substantially less than the hoped for target of 860,000. As of Saturday, 1.59 million doses had been given. A total of 1.146 millon people had received their first dose while 445,326 people received their second dose.
The vaccine programme has been hampered by supply difficulties and by restrictions imposed on the use of some vaccines.
This is expected to be the busiest week yet for the programme, with 220,000- 240,000 vaccinations scheduled and the HSE online registration portal will open to those aged 50-59 in the coming days. Ministers will this week consider plans to accelerate the provision of vaccines to that group.
However, changes to the restrictions on the use of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, allied to fluctuating delivery schedules, have presented Ministers with a choice of accelerating the programme for under-50s or potentially having hundreds of thousands of unused doses by mid-summer.
Mr Reid said on Sunday that while the idea of providing vaccines in parallel to different age groups may seem fine to some, it could create issues.
He warned that if people in their 50s were still waiting for vaccines while those in their 30s were receiving them, it would not be good from a public health perspective given the older cohort is deemed to be at greater risk from Covid-19.
HSE officials have been working on a revised vaccination schedule and a memo on the programme is expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. The key issue will be figuring how to build momentum in the programme and reach the target of more than four in five adults receiving or being offered a first dose by the end of next month.
The National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac) has essentially advised that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines be used for people over 50.
A total of 129 people were hospitalised with Covid-19 on Monday morning, according to figures released by the HSE. Forty were in intensive care and there were five additional hospitalisations in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, chief medical officer Tony Holohan urged people who have been cocooning but are now vaccinated to have confidence about opening up their lives.
In an “open letter”, Dr Holohan said some people might be nervous about the prospect of increased activity and interaction.
“While this anxiety is understandable, you can have confidence in your vaccine, no matter which one you received,” he said.
One of the ways in which anxiety can be managed, he continued, was to plan each trip, making sure to bring face masks and hand sanitiser, to arrive in good time, and to avoid crowds.
“Risk assess your choices and your environments. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, feel empowered to walk away and come back another time,” he wrote.
“Encourage loved ones to feel similarly about prioritising their own safety.”
In his letter, Dr Holohan said it was “important that you look out for the public health advice that is relevant to you and to plan to do it safely, but it’s important to get on and do it!”