Donnelly says he has an ‘excellent’ working relationship with Holohan

First deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccine expected to arrive in Ireland next week, says Minister for Health

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. File photograph: Julien Behal Photography

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. File photograph: Julien Behal Photography

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he has “an excellent working relationship” with the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, chairman of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Mr Donnelly insisted both of them had been “bemused” at media reports at the weekend that their relationship was strained.

He told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland programme that his office was “four doors down” in the Department of Health from Dr Holohan’s and they talked most days and sometimes several times a day.

They had discussed the reports on Monday and the “best way to describe” their reaction was that they were “bemused”, he said. “We have an excellent working relationship.”

Mr Donnelly said the first deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive in Ireland next week.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
288 73

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
288 73

Three deliveries are scheduled before the end of “quarter one”, he said, with 35,000 doses arriving next week.

The focus in the vaccination programme this week will be getting a second dose to frontline workers and care home residents who have already had their first jab.

Then the programme will move to give the first doses to a second group of frontline workers, he said. When asked when that would happen, the Minister said “very soon”

The roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine via GPs to the over-85 cohort will also commence “very shortly” he added.

When asked about the timeline of the vaccine roll out and the possibility of major sporting and cultural events happening later in the year, Mr Donnelly said he hoped such events could happen.

Nphet would have to look at how quickly the risk of transmission was going down as more people were vaccinated. “Nphet will look at how we’re doing on the numbers,” he said.

There was “an awful lot” still to be learned about the vaccine such as how long it would offer protection. “We’re all watching Israel,” he added, referring to one country which has made progress with a speedy roll-out of vaccines.

Mr Donnelly said the annual flu vaccine had a rate of 60 per cent protection while some of the Covid-19 vaccines had a level of protection above 90 per cent, which was heartening. Public health experts would have to determine what risk there was to the public when the most vulnerable had been vaccinated, he said.

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