Delta variant growth likely to ‘outmatch’ vaccine supply in coming weeks – Reid

Modelling showed cases numbers will rise during July and probably peak in August

The growth of the Delta variant of Covid-19 is likely to "outmatch" the supply of vaccines over the coming weeks, HSE chief executive Paul Reid has warned.

Mr Reid said he wished there was more time, and more supplies, to enable the health service to stay ahead of the increase in cases.

It was facing into the challenge of the variant “from a high base,” he told a briefing on Thursday, and vaccine supplies will “dip” in July.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
9,452,860 7,856,558

The risk of exposure to the variant will increase over the coming weeks while the process continues to get all adults vaccinated, he warned.


Modelling showed the cases will rise during July and probably peak in August. “We know we won’t have all of the adult population vaccinated by then, so in essence, the cases are rising before we have caught and vaccinated the significant element of the adult population”.

Mr Reid urged people to be “really careful” over the weeks ahead.

Over 2 million people are now fully vaccinated, he said, and 4.55 million doses have been administered. Seventy per cent of the adult population is at least fully vaccinated.

Over 300,000 people were vaccinated last week and 280,000 will receive a dose this week.

Areas recording high incidence include Donegal, with a 14-day incidence of 342 per 100,000 people, Waterford (226) and Sligo (215).

The number of patients in hospitals has increased from 39 two weeks ago, to 46 last week to 58 at present. However, ICU numbers, currently at 17, are staying low and stable. A total of 534 new cases were also reported on Thursday.

Separately in Northern Ireland, 627 new cases were reported by its Department of Health in the last 24 hours. A total of 2,099,174 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have also been administered so far.

Mr Reid said the HSE was planning for an anticipated rise in cases by looking at a range of scenarios, assessing trigger points as infections grow and looking at the experience of other countries.

Community testing levels are as high as last January, but positivity levels is far lower, so far, he said.

The number of Delta variant cases sequenced here has risen to 320, or 70 per cent of all cases, latest figures show.

Huge progress has been made in restoring IT services in the HSE since it suffered a major cyberattack in mid-May, HSE chief operating officer Anne O’Connor said, but there are still “some gaps”.

Among the services not yet up and running again are two diagnostic sites, four labs and three colposcopy clinics, while endoscopy services are limited in 20 sites.

Five hospitals are currently under heavy pressure – Mayo, Mullingar, Cork, Galway and Tallaght – with high attendances and trolley numbers, Ms O’Connor said.

Over one-third of people in the 60-69 age-group are still waiting on a second vaccine, according to HSE figures. Some 63 per cent have been fully vaccinated, compared to 93 per cent in the 70-79 age-group and and 82 per cent among 50-59 year-olds.

Damien McCallion, head of the HSE vaccine rollout programme, said fewer than 100,000 people in this group remained to be fully vaccinated, and 75,000 of these have appointments between now and Sunday.

Ireland has the fourth highest rise in Covid-19 cases in the EU, according to HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry.

Due to the spread of the variant, outbreaks are happening with greater ease, he said, with a high degree of secondary spread in locations such as cars and sports facilities.

There were 19 outbreaks reported last week in workplaces, 24 in schools and childcare facilities and 17 among social gatherings. No outbreaks were reported in nursing homes and only one in hospitals.

Dr Henry said the link between infection and serious illness has been weakened through mass vaccination but not broken. The “flood-wall” provided by vaccination could yet be breached if cases rise high enough.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.