Almost 25% of eligible population has received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine

Walk-in centres show positivity rate of 3% as vaccine portal opens for 60-64 year olds

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

 

Almost a quarter of the eligible population has now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 10 per cent have received a second dose, the Government has confirmed.

At a press briefing on Friday morning, a senior official in the Department of An Taoiseach said 1.3 million vaccine doses have been distributed, meaning 24.5 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose. The eligible population is anyone over the age of 16.

Assistant Secretary General at the department Liz Canavan said that 10 per cent of the eligible population had received a second dose of the vaccines.

Ms Canavan also disclosed that 150,000 people aged between 65 and 69 registered for vaccine appointments under the Government’s new online portal. She said that some of those have already received vaccines. Those between the ages of 60 and 64 are being invited to apply for an appointment from Friday.

The overall picture remained positive and there was an improving trajectory with the virus, she said.

Pointing out there was small increase in daily case numbers, she nonetheless said that the incidence of the virus has been falling and there has been “ongoing improvement in incidents in all age groups compared to two weeks ago.”

Walk-in centres

Some 36,500 people over the age of 16 have now attended the temporary walk-in test centres that have been set up in areas where there is a high incidence rate.

The positivity rate at those centre has been 3 per cent which is slightly above the rate for those presenting at designated PCR testing centres who are displaying symptoms or who are close contacts.

Ms Canavan reminded people that all that was required to attend a walk-in centre was a photo ID and a mobile phone number. She said that identifying asymptomatic cases was crucial as it allows those who did not know they had Covid-19 to have contact with health authorities.

She said that there were walk-in centres in Dublin 8, Coolock and Mulhuddart where there were still high incidence rates. “If you live near one of those centre please avail of them,” she said.

Ms Canavan also said there was an increase in demand for public transport in recent weeks and rail and Luas were under significant pressure in recent days.

Reopening

On Thursday, chief medical officer Tony Holohan also said the underlying trend in combatting Covid-19 gave reason for optimism.

Mr Holohan said there is “real hope” that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will be able to recommend easing restrictions when Government meets to consider the further reopening of facilities and relaxing of travel restrictions in May.

Despite a jump in the number of daily new cases of Covid-19 to 617 on Thursday, alongside the reporting of 10 more deaths, and an increase of one in the number of ICU cases, Mr Holohan said the trend was in the right direction.

On Friday there were 176 people in hospital with the virus, 48 of whom were in intensive care.

However, Dr Holohan said the key to reopening the country was the rollout of the national vaccination programme.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has warned that if the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not approved by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) when it issues its decision next week, it would be “virtually impossible” to meet the target of vaccinating 80 per cent of adults by June.

In relation to planned vaccines Mr Varadkar said not using the vaccine would “knock 600,000 off the plan”.

He also warned that such a delay would “possibly but not necessarily” delay a reopening of the country.

Separately, chief clinical officer with the HSE Dr Colm Henry has said that he believes the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a good vaccine and that it should be used.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Dr Henry pointed out that both the Food and Drug Administration in the US and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had acknowledged there were rare side effects, but he thought it should be used.

He said everyone hated the word cautious when it came to the easing of restrictions, but the vaccination programme was having an impact.

The real-world evidence from Israel and particularly the UK where the AstraZeneca vaccine had been used widely, was that there was substantial protection a number of weeks after the first dose, he added.

Dr Henry said that Niac was working very hard to reach a decision on Johnson & Johnson. “I know what factors into their decision are the supplies, how quickly we can get the vaccine out to people and that played into their decision on AstraZeneca when they felt you know there’s another vaccine available that we can use, that we can get to people in good time.

“I have no doubt they will be working over the weekend and early next week to come to a decision very soon.

“There are brighter days ahead, we’re not out of it yet, but we’re making strides definitely” he added.