Vaccine target to fall short by 25,000 this week, HSE says

Supply and co-ordination issues cause frustration for GPs

HSE chief executive Paul Reid says there has been ‘understandable frustration and noise’ among doctors about the vaccine rollout. File photograph: iStock

HSE chief executive Paul Reid says there has been ‘understandable frustration and noise’ among doctors about the vaccine rollout. File photograph: iStock

 

Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive Paul Reid has said there has been “understandable frustration and noise” among doctors about the vaccine rollout.

He said “significant issues” have arisen as a result of the failure of AstraZeneca to meet its vaccine commitments and the HSE vaccination schedule will fall short by 25,000 administered doses between last week and this week.

The HSE missed its target of 100,000 administered vaccines last week by almost 18,000.

Next week, the number of scheduled vaccination doses  – 84,000 – is 4,000 short of what had been anticipated.

Mr Reid said this was a result of the disruption of supplies from AstraZeneca over three weeks, but he anticipated that by the end of the month the pharmaceutical giant will have made up the shortfall.

There was a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines on March 2nd of 46,000 doses, with a further 57,600 doses coming on Tuesday next week, he said.

“We are getting deliveries, just not to the extent that we wanted. It will balance itself out the week after next,” he said.

“There has been a high level of unpredictability for us. It is very frustrating for us. We are changing our plans every week.

“I expect quarter two to be a period of higher stability. We have got assurances as far as we could get them for the rest of the quarter.”

Co-ordination issues

He also acknowledged there are co-ordination issues around Pfizer which is being rolled out to the over-70s.

There were corrections and clarifications around what GPs had ordered and what was delivered.

He said between 20-25 GP practices had difficulties with supplies of the Pfizer vaccine this week.

Responding to an item on Today with Claire Byrne from a GP in Connemara who said he was left without syringes, Mr Reid said the HSE had investigated it and other such cases.

If other surgeries were left without essentials for vaccination, they should call the GP hotline set up to co-ordinate the vaccine rollout, he added. “We are addressing these concerns as they come in.”

Mr Reid said there has been “understandable frustration and noise” among doctors about the rollout but it has “been a much smaller proportion of what is going on across the whole week.

“What is going on in clinics is absolutely joyous. It would lift your heart. The issues we have to address, we will address going into next week.”

Mr Reid told the HSE weekly briefing that almost 400 of the 1,300 GP health centres will receive their vaccine doses by Friday.

The “overwhelming majority” of over-85s will have received their first dose by the end of this week.

Between 20 and 25 GP practices in more remote areas will receive their doses next week and they will vaccinate the final cohort of 800 over-85s out of a total of 72,900.

Considerable impact

The vaccination programme has already had a considerable impact on infection rates in nursing homes and among healthcare staff.

The numbers of those who have been infected in long-term residential care units fell from 1,050 a month ago to 478 in the last fortnight, a drop of 52 per cent. The drop in infections in the general population was 24 per cent in the same period.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry added that there has been a 95 per cent fall-off in infections among hospital staff between the week ending January 10th and the week ending February 22nd when almost all healthcare workers had received one dose.

It amounted to an “extraordinary decline and collapse” in infections.

There was solid real-world evidence that the vaccine has reduced serious illness and death in the most vulnerable populations in nursing homes, he added.

“It seems to be working and justifies our prioritising the most vulnerable groups,” he said.

Dr Henry said emerging evidence about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine means it could be used to vaccinate the over-70s.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee recommended it for the over-70s, but chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan ruled it out and the Government decided only to give the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to those over the age of 70.

That decision could be reviewed in the coming weeks, Dr Henry said, as new data emerges.

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