Vaccine registration for people aged 30-39 to open next week

Deliveries in Johnson&Johnson vaccine lower than ‘worst-case’ scenario shortfall

The HSE expects to administer up to 280,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine a week. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Press Eye

The HSE expects to administer up to 280,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine a week. Photograph: Matt Mackey/Press Eye

 

Those aged 30-39 will be asked to register for their Covid-19 vaccination next week, despite supply shortages which have continued to hamper the programme, it is expected.

Ministers were updated on the vaccination progress at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, and were told that pharmacies will soon begin to assist the programme by administering the Johnson&Johnson (J&J) vaccine, and also offering the Pfizer shot in communities that are far away from the nearest vaccination centre.

The HSE expects to administer between 250,000-280,000 vaccine doses this week, Ministers were told, with sources suggesting it will be nearer the higher figure.

Around 30,000 pregnant women (between 14 and 36 weeks) are being offered vaccinations, with 5,200 administered so far this week, according to official figures.

Groups described as “socially vulnerable”, such as Travellers and Roma communities, are also being offered the vaccine via GPs or Vaccination Centres, while the vaccines are also now being offered in prisons.

But the programme is not yet hitting the sort of numbers – up to 400,000 per week – that Ministers and officials had hoped for last month, though sources hope to reach those levels in the second half of June.

Shortfalls in supply continue to dog the programme, with deliveries of the J&J vaccine – once hoped to be a “game-changer” in enabling a massive acceleration of the rollout, in part because it requires just one shot – described by one source on Wednesday night as a “nightmare”.

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This week, J&J deliveries were lower than even the “worst-case” scenario given by the company to officials recently. The lowest estimate of deliveries of the vaccine was 14,000, but the HSE has received just 12,000.

Ireland is due 17,000 doses of J&J next week, 10,000 the week after and 27,000 the week after that. Combined with deliveries in April and May, this would leave the health authorities here about 400,000 doses short of the amount hoped for in this quarter.

Deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine - the “workhorse” of the programme - were also lower than was originally hoped at about 250,000 for this week and last, though officials stressed they were in line with what the company had confirmed in recent weeks. Deliveries are expected to increase in the second half of the month, with 317,000 confirmed for the week beginning the 21st of June.

AstraZeneca supplies are also expected to rise in the second half of the month, and officials say that the reduction of the gap between the first and second doses will enable them to accelerate the administering of the second shot to thousands of healthcare workers in the coming weeks.

Ministers were also briefed that the HSE has implemented a revised plan, following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac), to reduce the interval between AstraZeneca doses from 16 to 12 weeks. Officials said it is now updating that to further reduce the gap from 12 to 8 weeks, following updated Niac recommendations.

There are about 420,000 AstraZeneca second doses due to be administered between mid-June and early August, officials said. Reducing will bring the schedule forward by three-four weeks, it is hoped.

Meanwhile, in Limerick, additional walk-in and drive-through test centres will be open to help deal with the recent spike in cases in the county.

The centres will be located at Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale on Wednesday; Fitzgerald Park in Kilmallock on Thursday and Friday and at the Moyross health centre on Saturday and Sunday. Each centre will open between 11am and 7pm on their respective days.

A further 259 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State by the Department of Health on Wednesday.

There are 76 people in hospital, with 27 in ICU.

The North’s department of health reported 105 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday but no further deaths associated with the virus.

Additionally, it said that 1,826,614 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered.

Tuesday, June 8th, marked six months since the beginning of the vaccination programme in Northern Ireland.