HSE to establish 40 vaccination centres across the country

Revised programme to vaccinate the over-70s to begin next week

There will also be three GP-run vaccination centres with the first to be established at the Helix at Dublin City University.

There will also be three GP-run vaccination centres with the first to be established at the Helix at Dublin City University.

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The Health Service Executive is to establish centres in about 40 locations across the country to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the wider population in the weeks ahead.

It is envisaged at this stage that there will be major facilities in Cork, Waterford, Sligo, Galway, Limerick and Athlone as well as on Dublin’s northside and southside.

The HSE confirmed on Sunday night that it was also looking at smaller centres in Mullingar, Longford, Ennis, Nenagh, Bantry and Tralee.

Separately, the vaccination of people over the age of 70 – starting with those over 85 – will get under way next week under a revised programme using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said on Sunday the decision to change plans and not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine for the over-70 age group was likely to delay the completion of the process by only a couple of weeks. He said all those over 70 should receive their first dose of the vaccine by mid-April and their second by mid-May.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said on Sunday the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had a superior effectiveness and were considered to be more appropriate for people over 70. The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines, which arrived in the State at the weekend, will be given to healthcare workers on Monday.

When the vaccination plan for older people gets under way next week, a majority of people over the age of 70 will receive the vaccine in the practice of their own GP.

There will also be three GP-run vaccination centres with the first to be established at the Helix at Dublin City University. The South Infirmary Hospital may be the location of the centre in Cork while no announcement has been made on where a centre earmarked for Galway will be sited.

Mr Reid promised that older people who were immobile at home – and who could not get to proposed vaccination locations – “will not be left behind”. He said transport could be arranged using local authorities or the Defence Forces while the HSE would also consider how vaccines could be brought to their homes.

Mr Reid said some of the 40 proposed vaccination centres could have 30-50 lanes where people would receive vaccinations.

Travel

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney warned if the common travel area between the UK and Ireland was being abused by passengers using Dublin Airport as a “back door” into Britain, the Government would “sort it out”.

It followed a report that people unable to fly directly into Britain from locations such as Dubai and Portugal, due to the suspension of direct flights, were travelling through Dublin.

Prof Kingston Mills, director of Trinity College’s Biomedical Sciences Institute, said the use of Ireland as a “back door into Britain” for travellers from Dubai was “unacceptable” and direct flights from there may have to stop.

The Irish Times understands that passengers from Northern Ireland and from Britain who arrive into Irish airports remain under no legal obligation to provide residence addresses or contact numbers 10 months after authorities on both sides of the Border agreed to share data on Covid-19.

The Government confirmed there was no data sharing between Dublin and Belfast on passengers arriving into one jurisdiction, and travelling on to the other jurisdiction, nor was there any legal obligation on non-residents to fill out passenger locator forms.

Consequently, there is no means of tracking or monitoring Irish passengers who use Belfast as a gateway into this State, or Northern and British passengers who use Dublin as a gateway or back door to return to their places of residence.

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