HSE planning to administer up to 240,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses next week

Test positivity of up to 12% reported from some walk-in centres, with rates highest among the young

HSE chief executive  Paul Reid and HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor are pictured at Dr Steevens’ Hospital during a weekly media briefing on the State’s Covid-19 response. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid and HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor are pictured at Dr Steevens’ Hospital during a weekly media briefing on the State’s Covid-19 response. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland.

 

The HSE is planning to administer between 220,000 and 240,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines next week as more mass inoculation centres open, its chief executive Paul Reid has said.

Mr Reid told a media briefing on Thursday that the organisation was “on track” to hit its forecast of administering between 160,000 to 180,000 doses this week.

He said the State vaccination plan was being redrafted to take account of new advice for pregnant women and people aged over-50s issued by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

“The new vaccination plan won’t be finalised until early next week. It will be a plan that accommodates the various adjustments that we need to make,” he said. “We will be aiming to ensure that no vaccines will be left unutilised for any period of time.”

Under the revised plans, pregnant women will be prioritised for vaccination at between 14 and 36 weeks’ gestation, after consulting with their doctor.

The use of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines were also approved for people aged 50 and above. Up to this point AstraZeneca had been limited to those aged 60 and older.

Mr Reid said he expected that those in the 50-59 age cohort would be able to register for vaccinations via the HSE online portal “very soon”. The vaccination of those in their 60s was “progressing well,” with more than 87,000 shots administered to that cohort last week, he said.

Mass vaccination

With six further mass vaccination centres due to open, bringing the total in operation to 36, he said it was hoped that between 220,000 and 240,000 vaccines would be administered next week, which would be the highest weekly total to date.

The latest figures show that 1.04 million people had received a first dose as of Tuesday, with 1.45 million shots administered in all.

Taosieach Micheál Martin told the Dáil on Wednesday that the target remains to have 82 per cent of the adult population, some 3.3 million people, receive or be offered a first Covid-19 vaccine dose by the end of June. He said about 450,000 people a week could be receiving vaccines by the middle of June.

The HSE expects that some 4,500 doses could be administered at the mass vaccination centre at the Helix in Dublin City University on Saturday alone, close to its maximum capacity.

However, Mr Reid said given the uncertainty around promised vaccine deliveries arriving, the health service was running the rollout on a week to week basis.

“People are looking into supplies in May and June and making assumptions about what age groups we might be at…we are delivering this plan on a week by week basis,” he said. “We are seeking the best assurance we can get [ON SUPPLY], but our experience has been unpredictability.”

Health officials said there was continued high uptake of vaccines across all age cohorts.

“We now have four vaccines available, our strong advice is take the vaccine that is available for you as your turn comes,” Mr Reid said.

Higher risk

People were putting themselves at “much higher” risk if they declined the vaccine, or opted to wait in the hope of being offered a different vaccine in the future, he said.

Dr Colm Henry, HSE chief clinical officer, said data continued to show a “rapid fall” in the number of Covid-19 cases among older age groups who had been vaccinated.

There has been 46,230 tests carried out in walk-in Covid-19 swabbing centres, set up to test asymptomatic people in communities with high rates of the virus, the briefing heard, with positivity rates as high as 12 per cent in some areas, particularly among younger people. Overall there has been more than 1,500 Covid-19 cases detected through testing at walk-in centres.

Meanwhile, the numbers attending hospital emergency departments, low during the height of Covid-19, were now back at levels last seen in 2019, Anne O’Connor, HSE chief operations officer, said.