Explainer: Will 82% of adults really be vaccinated by end of June?
Just under 3.1m will be needed to hit that target – so, another 1.77m first doses required
Late last month Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil ‘the target is still the target’. File photograph: The Irish Times
In late February, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the country in one of the now-routine addresses that by the end of June, “up to 82 per cent of adults who can be vaccinated will have received at least one dose”.
Eleven weeks and several redesigns of the vaccine programme later, this target hangs in the balance. Late last month, he told the Dáil “the target is still the target”. But with slightly more than seven weeks to go, just how good are the Government’s chances?
As of last Saturday, there have been 1.327 million first doses of Covid-19 vaccines given out. If we take it that the 82 per cent figure is of all adults, that means a fraction under 3.1 million will be needed to hit that target – so, another 1.77 million first doses.
This week, about 250,000 doses will be given. Analysis by Mark Coughlan of RTÉ’s Prime Time suggests between 20 and 30 per cent of recent shots have been second doses, suggesting that 175,000-200,000 first doses will be given out this week. If that held steady, the 82 per cent target would be missed. However, it’s fair to assume the rate will increase. Even with Johnson & Johnson deliveries not coming substantially on-stream until late in this month or even into June, there will be significant numbers of Pfizer coming, bolstered by extra doses secured via the EU’s deal with the drugmaker.
Build-up of supply
Sources believe that in June, more than 400,000 a week could be given out – it looks like this will be necessary. For the sake of argument, if an average of 380,000 per week was done over the period, coupled with a broadly similar split between first and second doses, the first dose target should be hit. This will require the promised build-up of supply to arrive on time and also for a rapid acceleration in weekly numbers to close to 450,000 in June, to account for the lower rates likely in the next couple of weeks.
Such huge volumes could spawn their own set of problems, but if the HSE keeps to its recent performance – which sees more than 95 per cent of available doses (discounting those held back in buffers) given within a week – it may be possible. Using GPs and community pharmacists would help here too.
A second target that gets less attention was outlined in the same February speech – that between 55 per cent and 60 per cent would be “fully vaccinated”. As of last Saturday, just under 500,000 second doses had been administered. That would have to grow to 2.08 million by the end of June.
This would all be made a lot easier if the National Immunisation Advisory Committee approves plans to give J&J’s single-shot vaccine to the under 50s. Its use for at least some younger age groups looks essential if the Government is to meet these targets.
If it continues to be restricted to over -50s, senior sources concede the chances of hitting the target “would be diminished significantly”.