Covid-19: Over 2m vaccine doses administered as 456 more cases are confirmed

No further deaths reported as Holohan urges vaccinated to ‘safely resume lives, mindful of guidelines’

One in seven adults are now fully vaccinated while 37 per cent have received one dose, the HSE said. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

One in seven adults are now fully vaccinated while 37 per cent have received one dose, the HSE said. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

No further deaths of Covid-19 patients have been reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). This leaves at 4,937 the total number of deaths in the pandemic.

Nphet also reported 456 confirmed cases of the disease, bringing to 254,450 the total number of cases in the Republic.

More than two million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have now been administered in the State, HSE chief executive Paul Reid confirmed on Thursday.

About 250,000 doses were being administered this week, and next week up to 280,000 people will be immunised, he said.

There were fewer than 100 people with Covid-19 in acute hospitals on Thursday night, Mr Reid has confirmed.

He wrote on Twitter that it was “great to see” the hospitalisation numbers drop to 99 on Thursday night, the lowest figure since September 24th last year. Of those hospitalised, there were 36 receiving treatment in intensive care units (ICUs), an increase of two the previous day. 

Mr Reid said the figures are a “clear demonstration that the vaccination programme has, for now, broken the link from daily cases to sickness, hospitalisations, ICU and mortality”.

Of the new Covid cases reported on Thursday, 189 were in Dublin, 52 in Cork, 49 in Donegal, 39 in Kildare and 17 in Galway, with the remaining 110 cases spread across 20 other counties.

The 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 129 cases per 100,000 people nationally. Kildare has the highest county incidence, followed by Donegal. Sligo has the lowest incidence.

The median age of cases is 27 years and 81 per cent are under 45.

On Thursday morning, 111 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 36 were in ICU. There were 11 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

As of Tuesday, 1,922,913 doses of vaccine had been administered: 1,408,105 first doses and 514,808 second doses.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “Our key objective remains to follow the public health advice in our daily activities as we continue to chart our way through this pandemic. 

“I would encourage people who have been vaccinated, to safely resume your lives, mindful of the guidelines. For those awaiting vaccination, the many choices we make to stick with the public health advice will keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.”

Vaccination rollout

Mr Reid said there there was “joy and confidence emerging” from vaccination centres as the rollout continues.

One in seven adults are now fully vaccinated while 37 per cent have received one dose.

“It feels like we’re all feeling better, which is better for the health services,” Mr Reid told the HSE’s weekly Covid-19 briefing.

“We’re 2-0 up and it feels like we’re winning,” he said, “but many a good lead was lost in the second half of the game.”

So far, 96 per cent of those aged 85 and over have received a dose. Among 80-84 year-olds, 99 per cent have been vaccinated.

Earlier, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly described Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s comments on the rate of rollout by June as “very ambitious”.

Mr Varadkar, according to sources present, told Wednesday’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting that everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine appointment could be offered one by the end of June. His expectation was based on a view that around 15 per cent of the population would not seek a jab.

Asked about the report on Thursday, Mr Donnelly said he hoped the Government could “deliver on that”.

“If the vaccines that have been ordered are delivered on time then by June four out of every five people who were entitled to the vaccine will have been vaccinated. The latest analysis of figures was that everyone would have been vaccinated by September,” he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny programme.

The Government has set a target of offering or administering a vaccine to 82 per cent of the population by the end of June. As of Monday, some 35.2 per cent (1.37 million) of people aged over 16 had received a first shot, with more than 506,000 people having received both.

Hesitancy

When asked about vaccine hesitancy, Mr Donnelly said that the most recent research indicated that 70 per cent of people would “definitely” take the vaccine and 16 per cent “probably” would, which by international standards was “very strong”. An EU-wide survey published on Thursday shows people in Ireland are the most willing in the bloc to take the vaccine.

The Irish Times reported on Thursday that senior Government and health officials expect the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) to this week clear the way for the use of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines for people under 50.

Incidence rates

Wednesday’s figures showed that Donegal, which had the highest incidence of the disease in the State for some time, had been overtaken by Kildare as the county with the highest number of new cases per capita.

Mr Donnelly said the response from local communities in Donegal had been “strong” and that indicators suggested the rate of infection would continue to fall there.

He also paid tribute to all members of the Oireachtas for their response to the pandemic. Although there were some who were “hedging their bets”, he said he appreciated the support of colleagues from across the political spectrum.

He also defended his position on antigen testing and denied that he was supporting the sale of them while dismissing their efficacy. He said rapid testing had a role to play in emerging from Covid-19 restrictions.

“I’m not saying they are useless,” he said of the tests, the sale of which in supermarkets has been criticised by some Nphet members.

However, Mr Donnelly pointed out that while there was a danger that people with a negative result would think they were not infectious, if the test results were positive then antigen testing could prevent super spreader events.

Separately, the HSE said a form of Covid-19 first identified in India had been officially designated a variant of concern in Ireland.

The HSE added the B1.617.2 variant to the list of variants of concern VoCs this week and has issued new guidance in relation to it and the three others.

A variant of concern is one that is more transmissible, more lethal or that could evade the immune response.

The Indian variant has been spreading rapidly in the UK, where cases are doubling weekly from a low base. Up to last week, 20 cases had been identified in Ireland.

UK estimates suggest the variant is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7, the UK variant that was 70 per cent more transmissible than previous variants and quickly became dominant in Ireland after Christmas.

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