State hits 2.5 million vaccinations earlier than expected

HSE to outline next phase of rollout which will see 400,000 vaccinations a week in June

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said that the infrastructure for an EU digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate, intended to make travelling within the bloc easier, will be ready at EU level from June 1st. Video: Reuters

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The HSE will later this week outline the next phase of the State’s vaccination plan which will see more than 400,000 shots a week administered in June.

The revised plan, expected to be announced on Thursday, comes after Taoiseach Micheál Martin predicted on Tuesday the milestone of 2.5 million doses administered was expected to be reached by the end of the day.

Sources in the HSE said the disruption to its IT systems following this month’s ransomware attack means it was not getting daily reports from GPs on the number of shots given. However, based on deliveries to GPs and the numbers from vaccination centres, they believed the 2.5 million mark has likely been hit earlier than expected.

About 300,000 shots were administered last week, with a similar amount expected next week. From next month, there is expected to be a second acceleration of the vaccination programme, as scheduled deliveries of the vaccines rise to over 400,000 a week.

However, while there is capacity in the system to administer more than that amount, there are some doubts as to whether deliveries of AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) vaccines will arrive on time. There are already shortfalls in the volume of J&J vaccines this month, and officials fear deliveries may be clustered at the end of the month, meaning that it will be difficult to reach the target of 80 per cent of all adults receiving a first dose by the end of June.

It is expected that registration for the vaccination programme for those aged 40-45 will open next week.

Confidence

The increasing pace of vaccination is strengthening confidence within Government ahead of the announcements of the reopening schedule expected this Friday. Sources say that the by now customary exchanges between Nphet and the Government, with the Government impatient to reopen and Nphet urging caution, will take place over the coming days.

The Government has yet to sign off on new Fáilte Ireland guidelines for the resumption of hospitality which are expected to put a 105-minute time limit on indoor visits to pubs and restaurants.

It was expected the guidelines would be released on Tuesday. However it is understood the Department of Taoiseach has yet to give them the green light.

Government sources said any move to implement a time limit would be “temporary”. Industry sources said they fear the guidelines represent “a charter for Government enabled pub crawls”.

EU travel system

Meanwhile, the European Commission said yesterday the EU is due to receive enough Covid-19 vaccination doses to inoculate 70 per cent of its adult population by the end of July, while member states can join its travel certificate “green pass” system from mid-June.

Delivery estimates released to EU leaders as they convened in Brussels showed the bloc is on course to receive more than a billion doses by the end of September, well over enough to fully vaccinate its population of 446 million.

Earlier, the Taoiseach said it was “full steam ahead” for the vaccination pass system after a political agreement on it was reached by the EU last week, though the Irish Government is not expected to operate the system until the middle of July.

While member states with economies that are reliant on tourism have been impatient to resume travel, with Greece indicating it would implement the digital vaccination pass system from June and Spain opening to travel from the UK, other countries have been more cautious.

The spread of the so-called Indian variant in Britain, where new local restrictions to curb infections in hot-spots are being considered despite a higher level of vaccination, is being carefully watched in the EU with leaders warning that vaccine-resistant strains could pose a threat to reopening.

“We need to stay vigilant regarding the emergence and spread of variants and take action as necessary,” the leaders stated in their joint conclusions.

Nevertheless, they agreed to “revise” travel rules within the bloc by mid-June, “with a view to restoring free movement in the EU”.

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