Just 9,000 doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered to Ireland between now and May 3rd, after the latest round of cancellations and delays by the drugmaker.
The Health Service Executive confirmed that a delivery scheduled for April 24th has been reduced from 45,000 doses to just 9,000. A delivery scheduled for Friday, April 30th, of 165,000 doses has been delayed, with a new arrival date of May 3rd.
Well placed sources said the immediate impact on the vaccine rollout plan would be cushioned as there are significant levels of AstraZeneca in stock at the moment, as administration was paused last week. Also, some deliveries intended for the under 60s would not be taking place as the current advice was against giving that vaccine to that age group.
There is also anticipated to be higher volumes of Pfizer delivered in the coming days, which will offset some of the impact.
However, the drop in AstraZeneca deliveries will inevitably have an impact in the weeks ahead, sources said, likely proving a further drag to the overall weekly rate of administration, which has struggled to hit the targeted level of 250,000 doses administered per week. AstraZeneca is the main vaccine being used to inoculate the 60-69 age group. The shortfall first emerged at a sitting of the Oireachtas health committee on Tuesday.
The HSE’s vaccination programme lead said there would be about 140,000-160,000 doses delivered this week, but that the impact of the AstraZeneca shortfall on next week’s target was still being calculated.
Asked about the chances of hitting the Government’s target of administering first doses to 80 per cent of the population by the end of June, HSE vaccination lead Damien McCallion said: “We’re working towards that as best we can, but it’s very much led by supply”.
“In terms of the overall target, we are continuing to work to that, but there are very significant supply challenges”.
But the AstraZeneca shortfall “will limit some of the vaccinations we can do”. Mr McCallion said the hope was for 800,000 doses to be delivered in April, 1.4 million in May and 1.6 million in June. Some 200,000 are scheduled to be delivered this week, and between 200,000 and 250,000 next week.
Asked if the HSE could deliver 250,000 doses in a week he said: “We will get to those figures, we will need to get to those figures.. but at the moment, we do not have the supply to test the system to get there”.
Meanwhile, Prof Karina Butler of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee signalled that new advice for pregnant women could see them vaccinated more quickly. "Women who are pregnant are not at more increased risk of getting infection but they are at increased risk of adverse outcome," Prof Butler said.
She said, many mRNA vaccines had been given to women in pregnancy, with data from the USA “very reassuring”. “We’ve been looking at this very actively at the moment and will be preparing some advices for submission to the Department”.
“If the issue comes that it is recommended in pregnancy, it’s not so much that they require a specific priortization as such, but if pregnancy is time-limited, it may be that giving it to them might need to be facilitated in some way.” “That will be coming out very soon, we’re just finalising what will be coming from that.”