HSE plans to vaccinate over-70s at large GP practices and dedicated centres

Decision to use Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on those over 70 leads to ‘re-tooling’ of plan

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned that because of current high levels of Covid-19 we still have a substantial amount of work to do in February to 'stay on the track we're on'. Video: RTE News

The over-70s will be vaccinated against Covid-19 at large GP practices, primary care centres and dedicated vaccination facilities from the middle of this month under new plans being finalised by the health service.

Following the decision that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be given to those aged over 70 where possible, rather than the more easily stored AstraZeneca product, the HSE has been working on what one source described as a “total re-tooling” of how the vaccination of older people will be handled.

Under the revised plan, GPs with smaller numbers of clients would likely travel to larger practices because of the challenges in transporting the vaccines.

Health officials are examining the impact this would have in areas with lower population densities and for groups such as the over-85s. It is understood that consideration is being given to how this group might travel to get inoculated and whether transport needs to be provided to ensure they get vaccinated.


The plan is to begin vaccinating the over-70s from mid-February onwards. Political sources say there may be a delay of two to three weeks in covering this group due to the changes. However, they expect there will be faster progress vaccinating healthcare workers and under-70s with chronic illnesses, who can receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The HSE told the Covid-19 vaccine taskforce on Thursday that revised vaccination plans were nearing finalisation and that delivery schedules were becoming clearer.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has said it believes Covid-19 case numbers are on a path of stable decline and could be as low as 200 a day by the end of this month. It said the more transmissible variant of the disease first identified in the UK now accounted for three out of every four cases here and was firmly dominant.

A further 75 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported on Thursday, bringing to 3,586 the total number of deaths in the pandemic. A further 1,318 cases of the disease were also reported as the total number of infections in the State to date passed 200,744 on Thursday.


Meanwhile, Ministers and officials at a Cabinet committee meeting on the economy have heard growing concerns about the cost of providing pandemic supports at the existing levels.

Two sources said the meeting was told the Government could not keep borrowing at the current rate and that fiscal constraints could kick in next year or the year after. This would mean the Government would have to find a way to move towards balancing the budget at that stage.

The European Central Bank would also not be in a position to underpin the current level of borrowing by governments indefinitely, the meeting heard.

Political sources have estimated that any tapering off of pandemic supports would be likely to happen towards the end of the summer as the need for restrictions eases, though a date has not been put on this.

The committee is also believed to have discussed a new support for businesses which have had to close or are experiencing sharply restricted activity due to the restrictions.

The Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) was introduced in the budget to help companies that had to close their doors to customers, offering them up to €5,000 a week. Many companies not trading directly to the public – such as wholesalers, food suppliers and caterers – have been hit by restrictions, but did not qualify for the scheme.

A Covid Business Aid Scheme, aimed at helping these companies to meet their fixed costs, is now being considered. Qualifying firms will likely have to show that turnover has fallen by at least 75 per cent to secure a payment.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor is an Irish Times writer and Managing Editor

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

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