Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker: What's available in the Republic of Ireland and what else is coming?

The Irish Times Vaccine Tracker will be updated weekly as the country embarks on the largest inoculation programme in the history of the State.
The Irish Times Vaccine Tracker will be updated daily as the country embarks on the largest inoculation programme in the history of the State.

It has been almost a year since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the Republic of Ireland. Since then, over 200,000 people have been diagnosed in the State, and more than 4,000 people have died.

Globally, over 100 million people have been diagnosed and over 2.5 million have died since the virus was first identified in China in December 2019.

Scientists have been racing to develop a vaccine that would bring an end to the pandemic, and there are now 64 different vaccines in clinical development, with another 173 in preclinical development, according to the World Health Organisation.

Three of these have been authorised for use in the EU - one from AstraZeneca, one from BioNTech-Pfizer and another from Moderna.

The EU has put in place purchase agreements with four other vaccines once they are approved for use - Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson (Jannsen) and Curevac. The bloc is also in talks with two other vaccine producers - Novavax and Valneva.

Ireland, along with all other EU member states, will get a proportional amount of every vaccine that is approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) according to its population. Ireland is in line to get 14 million doses of at least five different vaccines during 2021, more than enough to vaccinate the entire country.

How many have been vaccinated here?

As of February 28th, a total of 297,899 people in the Republic of Ireland had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 141,883 had received their second dose.

Some 159,350 of these vaccines had gone to people in long term residential care facilities, while 228,041 had gone to frontline healthcare workers and 51,934 had gone to people over the age of 70.

Globally, over 249 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have been administered.

But how do these other vaccines work, and when will they be approved for use here? Have there been any reported side effects? And when can you expect to receive a vaccine?

The Irish Times Vaccine Tracker will be updated daily as the country embarks on the largest inoculation programme in the history of the State.

On December 29th 2020 Annie Lynch, a 79-year-old from Dublin, became the first person in the State to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan
On December 29th 2020 Annie Lynch, a 79-year-old from Dublin, became the first person in the State to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan

Leading vaccines in the pipeline for Ireland

Dose: Two doses, 21-28 days apart.

Storage: Must be kept in a freezer at - 70°C.

Stated efficacy: 95 per cent.

EMA approval: Granted on December 21st.

Overview: Developed by New York-based Pfizer and German company BioNTech this vaccine has a brand name of Comirnaty. It uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which has instructions for producing a protein from Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The person’s immune system recognises this protein as foreign and produces antibodies and activates T-cells (white blood cells) to attack it, giving them immunity. The vaccine will last for six months when stored at -70C, and five days when stored at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. The EU has approved the withdrawal of six doses from each vial.

Side effects: Common side effects (occurring in more than 1 in 10 people) included pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills and fever. Severe allergic reactions occurred in a very small number of cases.

How many will Ireland get? 5.4 million doses by the end of 2021.

Dose: Two doses, 28 days apart.

Storage: Must be kept in a freezer at - 20°C.

Stated efficacy: 94.1 per cent.

EMA approval: Granted on January 6th.

Overview: Developed by Boston-based company Moderna, this vaccine is manufactured for EU states at partner plants in Switzerland, France and Spain before being distributed across the continent. Like the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, it uses mRNA technology to produce a Sars-CoV-2 protein, which the body then attacks to give immunity. It will last for up to six months when stored at - 20°C. The first Moderna vaccine was given in Ireland on January 16th.

Side effects: Common side effects (occurring in more than 1 in 10 people) included pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, chills, fever, swollen or tender lymph nodes under the arm, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting. Less common was redness, hives and rash at the injection site. Severe allergic reactions occurred in a very small number of cases.

How many will Ireland get? 870,000 doses by the end of 2021.

Dose: Two doses, 28 days apart.

Storage: 2-8 °C.

Stated efficacy: 76-82% according to AstraZeneca, 60% according to the EMA

EMA approval: Granted on January 29th.

Overview: The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was thought of as a potential game-changer because it can be transported and stored at 2 degrees to 8 degrees for up to six months, making it much easier to move around and administer. It is also much cheaper, costing about $3-4 per shot, compared with $20 for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, with the former being made on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic.

It is based on a harmless chimp cold virus that cannot grow inside human cells. Scientists have tweaked this virus so that it carries genetic material containing the instructions for a protein of the coronavirus. Once the vaccine has been administered, our bodies produce the coronavirus protein, triggering an immune response.

Two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart, are needed to offer the best protection against Covid. However, a dosing error led to the serendipitous finding that when clinical trial participants were given half a dose followed by a full dose, the vaccine had a higher efficacy than when participants were given two full doses, with 90 per cent efficacy in the former case and 62 per cent efficacy in the latter. This led AstraZeneca to announce in November a new global trial of the vaccine with the half dose/full dose regime.

In January, a bitter row broke out between the European Union and AstraZeneca after the pharmaceutical company drastically revised downwards the number of doses it could deliver the bloc. While talks continue on how to increase production, the company has now committed to a total of 40 million doses for the EU in the first quarter of 2021.

While the EMA approved the use of this vaccine for all ages, doubt was cast over its efficacy in the over 65s due to the lack of data from Astrazeneca’s clinical trials in this cohort. As a result, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Poland and Belgium have opted not to approve this product for their older population.

Following suit, Ireland has also decided to use the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for the over 70s where possible, not the AstraZeneca jab, resulting in a significant reorganisation of our vaccination plans.

Side-effects: No serious safety issues were found.

How many will Ireland get? 190,000 doses in February and a further 95,000 in early March - supply after this is not confirmed.

Dose: One

Storage: Lasts for up to two years frozen at –20° C, and up to three months refrigerated at 2–8° C.

Stated efficacy: 57 - 72 per cent

Trial stage: Phase 3.

EMA approval: Pending - under rolling review.

Overview: The EMA started a rolling review of this single dose vaccine from Janssen, the Belgium-based subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson on December 1st .

On January 29th the company announced the results of its Phase 3 trial: the vaccine had an efficacy of 72 per cent in the United States, 66 per cent in Latin America, and 57 per cent in South Africa.

This vaccine uses double-stranded DNA to deliver a protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body, thereby creating immunity. It is different from others on the market in that it requires just one injection. The EU has agreed an initial contract for 200 million doses, with an option to buy 200 million more, assuming it secures regulatory approval.

On February 16th the company applied to the EMA for seeking authorisation for its single-dose vaccine, paving the way for its availability in Ireland by April.

How many will Ireland get? 2.2 million doses

Dose: Two doses, three weeks apart.

Storage: Stable at 2°C to 8°C.

Stated efficacy: 85 - 95 per cent

EMA approval: Under rolling review.

Trial stage: Phase 3

Overview: US company Novavax has developed a Covid-19 vaccine which stimulates an immune response by delivering spike proteins into the body. These spike-proteins are grown and harvested from insects. Similar technology is used in the production of vaccines for influenza and HPV. The European Commission has concluded exploratory talks with Novavax with a view to purchasing up to 200 million doses. The EMA began a rolling review of the vaccine on February 3rd.

Trial stage: Phase 2b.

Overview: In September the EU signed a deal to purchase 300 million doses of this vaccine. It is based on the same technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines - more conventional than the mRNA used by Pfizer and Moderna - and it was thought it could play a big role in ending the pandemic. However, despite positive results from Phase 1 trials, news came in December that Phase 2 trial results showed an insufficient immune response in older adults. Phase III studies were expected to start in December, but the companies now plan to begin a phase 2b study in February with a different formulation of the vaccine. Even if their new formulation is successful, they do not expect the vaccine to be available until the end of 2021.

Dose: Two doses, four weeks apart.

Storage: Will last for at least 3 months at 2–8°C.

Stated efficacy: Unknown.

EMA approval: Under rolling review.

Trial stage: Phase 3.

Overview: The German company CureVac began its final Phase 3 trials in December, with results expected in the first quarter of 2021. It uses the same mRNA technology as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, but can be kept at normal refrigerator temperatures. The company has signed a deal with the EU to supply 405 million doses, pending regulatory approval.

The EMA began a rolling review of the vaccine on February 12th.

Dose: Two.

Storage: Stable at 2°C to 8°C.

Stated efficacy: Unknown.

EMA approval: Not yet under review.

Trial stage: Phase 1/2.

Overview: Valneva is a French company which has created a Covid-19 vaccine based on their Japanese encephalitis vaccine. It delivers a chemically inactivated coronavirus and uses an adjuvant (immunity booster) to create immunity. It entered clinical trials in December and expects to have its first results by April 2021. On January 12th the European Commission concluded exploratory talks with the company for the supply of 30 million doses, with the option to buy a further 30 million.

A mass Covid-19 vaccination centre at Cork City Hall. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
A mass Covid-19 vaccination centre at Cork City Hall. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

When might you be vaccinated?

In December the HSE published the provisional order in which people in Ireland will be vaccinated against Covid-19. After over-65s in care homes and frontline health workers, people aged 70 and older and other healthcare workers are next in line to receive the vaccine.

The next categories are: people aged 65-69 years; an ill-defined group referred to as “key workers” and people aged 18-64 with certain medical conditions. Next up will be: those living or working in crowded conditions; people working in education; those aged 55-64; workers in other occupations important to the functioning of society; people aged between 18 and 54; and, finally, pregnant women and those under 18.

As of February 28th, 228,041 vaccines had gone to frontline healthcare workers, while 159,350 vaccines had gone to people in longterm residential healthcare facilities.

The vaccination of people aged over 85 began on Monday, February 15th, with 51,934 shots being administered so far, while those in the 70-84 age bracket should begin to receive their first dose by March 8th.

The HSE has said everyone over the age of 70 should have received their second dose by mid-May.