Just one in five pregnant women offered the Covid-19 vaccine in some of the State's maternity hospitals have taken up the offer, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
However, the acceptance of the vaccines varies widely, ranging between 20 and 60 per cent across all maternity hospitals, Damien McCallion, clinical lead of the HSE vaccination programme, said.
About 3,800 pregnant women have been vaccinated under the programme since it began earlier this month, out of a total of 12,000 consultations within the pregnancy pathway.
Some women chose not to progress with vaccination even after receiving advice, he said.
The HSE is looking at starting an information campaign around the benefits of the vaccine for pregnant women, Mr McCallion said.
Overall, take-up of the vaccine has reached “astonishing” levels, according to HSE chief clinical officer.
“We were afraid when vaccine arrived at first that people wouldn’t take it and that the anti-vaccine movement would have considerable traction. In fact we’ve seen demand that would have been very difficult to predict, right through all age groups.”
This included people in their 60s who were being offered the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.
“Once we gave open and transparent knowledge about what we know and don’t know and about the limits of it and especially its effectiveness, they were happy to go and take it,” he told a HSE briefing on Thursday.
About 2.6 million people have received a vaccine dose – 1.6 million first doses and 800,000 second doses.
The take-up of vaccines is 98.4 per cent among people in their 80s, 95.5 per cent among those in their 70s and 89.1 per cent among those in their 60s. Among those in their 50s, where vaccination is continuing, the take-up is 78.5 per cent.
Dr Henry said school cases remain at a low level, but it was critically important no gatherings or parties take place as the school year ends so that the exposure of exam students to Covid-19 is minimised.