Revised targets for the State’s vaccine campaign will be announced today (Friday) following the emergence of major new supply difficulties from pharmaceutical firms
Accepting that it is “likely” the 82 per cent target by the end of June will not be met, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, however, went on: “If we do miss targets we’ll only miss them by a few weeks. Instead of the end of June, it would be early July.”
Speaking ahead of the announcement of new Covid-19 relaxation plans, Mr Varadkar promised “very positive” reopening news, and a return to international travel, events and other areas.
The public has every reason to be hopeful, he said, because Covid-19 case numbers are stable, with 100 hospitalisations for Covid-19 and 50 people in intensive care. Indeed, the State is “ahead of ourselves” on hospital targets.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid told the weekly HSE briefing that the State will receive just half of expected AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries in coming weeks, while Pfizer numbers will be 30,000 down.
In a statement to The Irish Times, Pfizer said “We’re committed to delivering 250m doses under the agreement with the European Commission in Q2. This consists of the planned 200m doses plus 50m doses, accelerated from their scheduled delivery later in 2021.
“Any minor variation in a delivery as part of this plan is a result of us ensuring equitable distribution within the bloc of those accelerated doses over the coming weeks.”
The HSE does not know how many Johnson&Johnson vaccines it will receive, but the number could at best be just half of the 600,000 expected. At worst it could be just 64,000.
So far 60,000 Johnson&Johnson doses have been received this month, most of which have been administered. A small delivery is due over this weekend, he told reporters..
Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told Sinn Féin's David Cullinane that reaching the 82 per cent target by the end of June for first doses depended on supply.
“Anyone who wants a vaccine should be fully vaccinated by the end of September,” he declared, adding that half of all adults will have received their first dose by the end of this week.
Speaking at the HSE briefing, the HSE chief executive said that 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 those over 80; 95.5 per cent among 70 year olds; and 89.1 per cent among 60 year olds. Among those in their 50s, where vaccination is continuing, the take-up is 78.5 per cent.
Between 304,000 and 314,000 people got a vaccine last week. This week, the target will be between 260,000 to 280,000 at 37 mass -vaccination centres. A new centre opens in University College Dublin next week.
Mr Reid rejected Dáil complaints by rural TDs about long journey times to some vaccination centres, with some Deputies alleging the vaccination rollout was biased towards Dublin.
The Republic has more centres per head of population than Northern Ireland, Mr Reid pointed out – where there is one per 100,000 people, compared to one per 300,000.
While patients living in rural Ireland have faced longer journeys to vaccination centres, he pointed out that in Dublin and other areas patients can face equally long journeys in bad traffic.
Ambulance staff are dealing with almost 4,000 referrals for administering the vaccine, officials said. Some 940 patients did not require vaccination and 240 are still waiting for one.
Eight people have died with Covid-19 since May 15th.
The number of B.1617.2 variant cases – the so-called Indian variant – has risen to 97, with another 58 cases of a related sub-type, B.1617.1, recorded, the HSE said.
Meanwhile, it emerged that 240 people who are unable to leave their homes because of age and illness have yet to receive a first vaccine dose. So far 2,700 others have got a first jab, while 1,400 have received their second dose.
Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler said the work was being carried out by the National Ambulance Service. Each visit takes at least 30 minutes, and sometimes longer.
Minister of State Anne Rabbitte said most people in homes for the disabled or those enjoying daycare services among the 271,000 Cohort IV high-risk group have received a first jab. Some 11 per cent have been fully vaccinated.