Less than half of expected vaccines to be delivered in first quarter

Supply issues mean deliveries will fall far short of forecast 1.7m doses by end of March

HSE chief executive Paul Reid will tell the Oireachtas health committee  that Ireland is among the top five countries in the EU for vaccine rollouts.  Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

HSE chief executive Paul Reid will tell the Oireachtas health committee that Ireland is among the top five countries in the EU for vaccine rollouts. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

 

Ireland is set to receive less than half the deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines it originally expected in the first three months of the year, as supply issues continue to impede the State’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

Almost 1.7 million vaccines would be delivered to Ireland in the first quarter of the year, the high-level taskforce on Covid-19 vaccination forecast in early January.

By the end of February, 520,000 doses had been supplied, and total deliveries at the end of March are not expected to exceed 850,000 doses.

The shortfall is due to slower-than-expected delivery of doses by the three companies with authorised vaccines: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. Delivery dates for shipments of the vaccines have changed on more than 20 occasions in the past two months.

Meanwhile, supplies of Johnson & Johnson’s “game changer” single-shot Covid-19 vaccine are not expected to arrive in Ireland until mid-April, a month after regulatory approval is granted.

Ramp up

Sources said the current expectation is also that once the vaccine is delivered to Ireland, the initial volumes will be low, and will ramp up during the summer.

The vaccine is expected to be given regulatory approval by the European Medicines Agency this week, and there have been calls from Government TDs to seek delivery of the vaccine ahead of time, in order to enable a speedy rollout of the jab.

The chief executive of the Health Service Executive will on Tuesday tell the Oireachtas health committee that Ireland is among the top five countries in the EU for vaccine rollouts. The service continues “to build the appropriate capacity to administer 250,000 vaccines per week, subject to supply”, Paul Reid will say.

Although Ireland lags well behind the UK for the number of vaccines administered, it has a greater share of the population fully vaccinated – 3 per cent against 1.6 per cent, according to Ourworldindata.org.

A further 437 Covid-19 cases were reported on Monday night, but no additional deaths.

Precarious

Public health officials said the decline in case numbers has accelerated somewhat, though the situation remains “precarious” due to the level of infection still in the population.

There have been no Covid-19 outbreaks in schools since they reopened late last month, National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) officials said, though the full impact of the change may not be known until later this week.

The Department of Health and the HSE on Monday said the next phase of reopening of schools can proceed as planned.

Primary school children in third to sixth class and fifth years in post-primary schools are due to return to the classroom next Monday.

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