Under-60s must wait until June for Covid-19 vaccination, says HSE

Health service boss confident that 80% of adults will be vaccinated by the end of June

Director General of the HSE Paul Reid recounted the roller coaster week for the vaccine rollout which saw more than 9,000 people sign up in the first hour though the portal. Video: RTÉ

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The majority of adults will be not be vaccinated until June at the earliest, Health Service Executive boss Paul Reid has said.

Mr Reid said he remained confident that 80 per cent of adults will be vaccinated by the end of June as the Government has forecast.

However, it is unlikely that anybody in the general population under the age of 60 will receive a vaccine until June.

Mr Reid said Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly had pressed for more clarity on when different age groups could be vaccinated. Mr Donnelly had hoped to make the announcement this week, but the news about changes to the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout and the delay to the Johnson & Johnson medication means that process will be delayed.

The HSE is anticipating that the first vaccinations of 420,000 people between the ages of 60 and 69 will take six weeks to the end of May and will be done in two cohorts – the 65- to 69-year-olds first and then the 60- to 64-year-olds.

Mr Reid said it was always anticipated that the under-60s would not be vaccinated until the beginning of June and it will depend on supply.

There are 605,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine due in this quarter though it has been withdrawn temporarily by the company and the European Medicines Agency is examining reports of blood clotting.

HSE clinical lead on vaccination Damien McCallion said the 545,000 Pfizer doses, which are now coming in the second quarter, may help them vaccinate ahead of schedule.

The HSE had hoped to vaccinate between 180,000 and 190,000 people this week, but 40,000 to 50,000 of those vaccines had to be postponed after the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac) ruled that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given only to the over-60s.

They will be offered an alternative vaccine in the coming weeks depending on supplies of teh Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The HSE is anticipating administering between 140,000 to 160,000 next week.

Some 26,000 people had already registered to be vaccinated since bookings opened on Thursday morning.

Of the 69-year-olds who registered on Thursday, 95 per cent signed up through the HSE online portal with the rest through the live contact line.

Mr Reid said there had been “really positive engagement” among the public for the portal which went live on Thursday morning and the response has been in keeping with the very high take up of vaccinations in general.

What about the portal?

He defended the process saying that it has taken most people an average of 10 minutes to register their details.

“The steps are quite quick. We are strongly encouraged by what we have seen on the portal this morning,” he said.

At the weekly briefing, the HSE outlined its vaccination schedule for the coming weeks.

The portal for the vaccination of the 60 to 64 age cohort will be opened from late April. They will all be vaccinated using the AstraZeneca vaccine as per the guidance by the Niac that it should only be given to the over-60s.

These will be followed by the 16- to 59-year-olds in the very high risk group of whom 70,000 have been vaccinated to date out of an estimated population of 250,000.

The same timeframe will enable the vaccination of 345,000 in the high-risk category between the ages of 18 and 59.

He said HSE staff had shown “mobility, agility and flexibility” in relation to the rollout. Such flexibility was not just in the private sector, he added.

HSE chief clinical officer Colm Henry said there was now a sustained reduction in Covid-19 numbers, with the average daily numbers down from 430 to 388 – a drop of 9.5 per cent in a week.

There was just three deaths among the over-65s last week and there had been no outbreaks in nursing homes for the time since July. In the same timeframe there had been just 11 cases of Covid-19 among hospital staff.

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