More than quarter of a million people to receive vaccine this week

Fears of ‘cancer epidemic’ across Europe as screening stalled during pandemic

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The Health Service Executive expects to vaccinate 250,000-270,000 people this week, the highest number yet in the rollout.

An estimated 240,000 people were vaccinated last week, including a record 52,000 on Friday. On that day, more than 202,000 people aged between 60 and 69 years had received a vaccine dose, out of 325,000 who had registered.

Four out of every five people aged between 65-69 have been administered at least one dose.

The rate of vaccination has varied across the country, with regions having a higher proportion of older people experiencing slightly longer waits within the three-week window from registration to vaccination allotted to immunisation of this cohort, according to a HSE spokesman.

The vaccination of people in their 60s is expected to conclude at the end of this week. By the end of next week, immunisation will be solely focused on those in their 50s.

Deliveries of 182,000 Pfizer doses and 32,000 Moderna doses are expected this week, the same as last week. In addition, a shipment of 30,000 AstraZeneca vaccines is expected to arrive. However, next week’s delivery of Janssen vaccine is expected to be smaller than originally envisaged.

A small number of people who do not have a GP have experienced difficulty accessing vaccination as the online form requires input of a person’s family doctor details. The HSE says a case-by-case approach is being taken and anyone in this position is advised to contact it directly.

Covid cases

A further two deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Sunday. This brings to 4,921 the total number of deaths in the pandemic. Nphet also reported 514 new confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 252,809 the total number of cases in the Republic.

The median age of cases is 28 and 75 per cent are under 45.

On Sunday morning, 116 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, up six on the previous day. This included 31 patients in ICU, down two. This is the lowest number for people hospitalised with the virus since late September 2020.

Speaking after getting his first vaccination in Cork Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: [It was] not a bother; I feel great, fantastic.”

He said that the next few weeks would be critical in the rollout of the vaccine, which was already beginning to have an impact as evident in the figures being reported by Nphet.

In the North, there were no new deaths related to Covid 19 reported on Sunday, with the total death toll since the start of the pandemic remaining at 2,147. There were a further 98 people who tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 120,946. Nearly 1.5 million (1,460,425) vaccine jabs have been administered; 972,597 of which were first doses and 487,828 of them second inoculations.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has rejected a call by the North’s health minister to stop cross-Border travel due to a spike in Covid-19 cases in Donegal.

Northern Ireland health minister Robin Swann wrote to Mr Donnelly last week saying non-essential travel across the Border must be stopped “by enforcement if required”.

However, Mr Donnelly said on Sunday the epidemiological situation “wouldn’t warrant that”, and added there were no plans to change the easing of inter-county travel from Monday. “We have an open Border and I don’t want to see that change.”

Separately a parish priest yesterday defended staging regular Sunday morning masses during the lockdown saying no person has got the virus from attending his masses in a large church.

Ennistymon priest Fr Willie Cummins was speaking after 48 people attended 11am mass at the Catholic church in the north Clare town on Sunday.

From Monday, priests can celebrate masses with 50 people; under Level 5 restrictions it has been a criminal offence to attend public mass, other than funerals and weddings.

Asked how many Sundays he has celebrated mass during the current lockdown, Fr Cummins said: “The whole time.”

Asked if the Garda have been in touch concerning the masses, he replied: “No, the gardaí are very understanding people.”

Cancer screening

Meanwhile, nearly one million cancer cases across Europe are being missed due to Covid-19, according to new data published on Monday.

An estimated 100 million cancer screening tests were not performed during the pandemic, according to the European Cancer Organisation. The result will be later-stage diagnosis and potentially worse survival rates, it says.

One in every two patients with potential cancer symptoms were not urgently referred for diagnosis, and one in five are still not receiving the treatment they need.

“The scale of the problem is frightening,” according to Mark Lawler, professor of digital health at Queen’s University Belfast. “Without immediate action, the Covid-19 pandemic is poised to spark a cancer epidemic across Europe.”

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