Covid-19: Four further deaths and 420 new cases confirmed in the State

HSE encourages healthcare workers who had first dose of AstraZeneca to take second one

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Dr Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

 

A further four deaths of Covid-19 patients have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) with 420 newly confirmed cases of the disease.

The total number of Covid-19 related deaths has climbed to 4,835 while the total number of cases in the Republic is now 243,238.

Of the cases notified today 211 were men and 206 were women, 74 per cent were under 45 while the median age was 32.

At 2pm on Saturday there were 183 people in hospitals in Ireland while 50 people were being treated in intensive care. There were 11 new admissions to hospital and 17 people were discharged. There were no new admissions to ICUs in the preceding 24 hours while two people were in a position to leave ICU.

The Chief Clinical Officer with the HSE Dr Colm Henry has said he is “increasingly confident” that the vaccine roll-out is back on track with more than half a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine set to come on stream in the weeks ahead and the company’s supply lines “less subject to disruption”.

He said there had been “furious remodelling” over the last week and he said that while it “a little too early to say” exactly how the roll-out would proceed the additional doses from Pfizer “puts us in a much better position than we were two weeks ago”.

While Dr Henry acknowledged that some people over 60 who are in line to receive the AstraZeneca jab had concerns over very rare but very serious blood clotting incidents, he stressed that there “is much more to fear from the virus”.

Speaking on Saturday with Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio 1, Dr Henry declined to say if people who refused to take the AstraZeneca vaccine would find themselves at the back of the queue for other vaccines but said the HSE was “not in a position to an alternative vaccine”.

Separately, the HSE has told its staff that it is understandable that some may be apprehensive about taking a second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine but that the benefits outweigh the risks.

In an note to healthcare workers, Dr Henry said the AstraZeneca vaccine - which has the trade name of Vaxzevria - along with the others that have been authorised were “vital in ending the pandemic”.

He said that all medical treatments had potential harms as well as potential benefits and it was important to be able to weigh these against each other.

‘Safe and effective’

He said that across all ages, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) in Ireland had agreed that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “safe and effective at preventing Covid-19 illness, reducing hospitalisation and deaths and that the benefits outweigh the risks”.

“More than 235,000 doses of Vaxzevria have been given to people in Ireland so far, mainly to frontline healthcare workers, and we can already see the significant reduction in cases of Covid-19 disease in our frontline healthcare workers as a result of the vaccination programme.

“It is important that we continue to protect our staff and patients by completing second dose vaccination of healthcare workers in line with the new guidance issued by Niac. Healthcare workers under 60 who have not yet received their first vaccine dose will receive an alternative vaccine in accordance with the Government’s allocation groupings.

“It is understandable that some people will have questions or may be apprehensive about Vaxzevria. I am writing to assure you that the benefits of the vaccination far outweigh the risks of severe disease, hospitalisation and death due to Covid-19.”

The HSE met with health service trade unions on Friday about the issue of vaccination of staff.

Sources said it did not appear that the HSE was moving towards any form of mandatory vaccination of personnel.

Earlier this week the Health Information and Quality Authority recommended a series of measures to encourage Covid-19 vaccination uptake among health staff but suggested mandatory vaccination as a last step to be considered.

Fatalities

HSE director general Paul Reid said the number of people falling ill and dying with Covid-19 had been “radically reduced” as the vaccine programme ramped up.

In a tweet posted on Saturday morning, Mr Reid said 22 per cent of those who are eligible to receive the vaccine have had their first dose and that 1.2 million doses had been administered.

“The real measures of sickness, hospitalisations, ICU and mortality all radically reduced,” he continued.

Mr Reid said a further 3,000 people over the age of 70 will start the vaccination process today, while the portal for registering to get the jab has now been widened to include people who are aged 67.

In excess of 53,000 people have now registered for vaccine appointments through the facility with 90 per cent of registrations done through the website.

Meanwhile, two new walk-in Covid-19 testing centres for asymptomatic people have opened at St Catherine’s Community Centre in the Liberties in Dublin and at the Primary Care Centre at Cahir in Co Tipperary.

Since the no-appointment service started being rolled out at various locations across the country 32,500 people have been tested with 873 asymptomatic people testing positive, a rate of 2.8 per cent.

Globally, the death toll from coronavirus topped three million people on Saturday morning, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, although the true number is believed to be higher with many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak.