GPs warned of ‘significant changes’ to vaccination programme

IMO says rollout for the highly vulnerable and vulnerable have been recalibrated

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photograph: Bloomberg

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photograph: Bloomberg


Family doctors have been told there have been “significant changes” to the vaccination programme following recent developments.

In an update to members sent late on Wednesday night, the Irish Medical Organisation said the programme for cohorts four and seven - the highly vulnerable and vulnerable, respectively - has been recalibrated.

According to the document, Pfizer will be used in general practice for vulnerable people aged 18 to 59.

Deliveries of vaccines for those in cohorts four will be spread across three weeks, commencing on April 26th, May 3rd and May 10th.

Second doses for cohort four and first doses for cohort seven will be spread across the four following weeks, and second doses for cohort seven between June 14th and July 5th.

The HSE was on Wednesday evening putting the finishing touches to a new plan for the vaccine rollout, which will be sent to the Department of Health before being published, perhaps as soon as today.

The mail to IMO members was drawn up following consultation with the HSE on the new plan.

The document suggests those over 60 will be invited to register on the online HSE portal to receive an invitation for a vaccine appointment.

It is thought these will be done using AstraZeneca, in a mass vaccination centre, and that this will include the vulnerable people in those age groups, with family doctors now concentrating on the under 60s.

GPs were told that the vaccinations booked on the portal will commence next week.

The number of vulnerable patients aged between 18 and 59 across the two groups is some 440,000, according to the document.

Some GPs who had been using Moderna may be required to switch to Pfizer under the new plan as the former vaccine is “completely dependent on supply and the requirement to deploy mRNA to other vaccine administration sites”.

It is understood the new plan will see the first three cohorts, including frontline healthcare workers and the over-70s - continue as is.

Those in vulnerable categories who have had their first dose of AstraZeneca will receive a second dose of the same vaccine. The under 60s in this group will be given mRNA vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna.

Younger cohorts will then be called to register online by age as older people are completed; they will be given mRNA vaccines and the J&J vaccine, depending on the outcome of the EMA review of the single-shot J&J vaccine. Some more vulnerable groups will be engaged with by outreach teams.

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