Government offers to buy spare vaccines from EU member states

‘Number of leads’ identified as Delta threat forces acceleration of vaccine programme

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced that people aged 18 to 34 will be able to seek an appointment in one of over 700 pharmacies nationwide to receive a Janssen Covid-19 vaccine from Monday, July 5th. Video: Oireachtas TV

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The Government has contacted all EU member states offering to buy spare Covid-19 vaccines in an effort to rapidly accelerate the rollout plan given the threat posed by the Delta variant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin asked his officials to get in touch with all member states in the past week and a “number of leads” have been identified, sources have confirmed.

As part of these conversations Ireland is now set to buy one million Covid-19 doses from Romania.

Mr Martin held talks with the Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, on Friday morning and they agreed in principle to the purchase.

Romania halted the importation of vaccines due to a slow uptake among its citizens in recent days and has already sold more than a million doses to Denmark.

“In principle we have reached an agreement that would supply us with a million mRNA vaccines and obviously there are logistical issues to be gone through but it is very good news,” Mr Martin said on Friday evening.

The Taoiseach also said Cabinet had sought advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) over whether or not children with underlying conditions should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“I do understand it’s very worrying for the families, and it’s something I hope we can get advice back on quickly.”

He said “various clinical trials” involving children and some vaccines had been approved “in some respects” by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) and the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration).

Mr Martin also said “operational issues” regarding the rollout of vaccines in pharmacies would be easily “dealt with”.

People aged between 18 and 34 will be able to opt to receive the one-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine from selected pharmacies from Monday. Pharmacies on Friday reported being overwhelmed by phone calls from people in this age group seeking a vaccine.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said 750 pharmacies across the State would be offering the service. He appealed for the public to be patient with the revised schedule when they were looking for their vaccination because “right now, there isn’t one for everyone in the audience in July”.

The Government expects to be in a position to administer up to 210,000 Janssen vaccines and 100,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to this group in July, and then higher amounts again in August.

The manufacturers of AstraZeneca have indicated they may have a much higher amount than 100,000 vaccines in that period but the Government is unsure if those extra doses will materialise.

There are also talks ongoing with Johnson & Johnson to increase the volumes of vaccines that might be made available in this time too.

Registration portals

The online registration portal for mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna will open for people aged 30-34 from next Friday. Under current estimates, people aged 25-29 will be able to register to receive a mRNA shot in early August with the 18-25 age cohort following around mid-August.

It comes as more than 220 cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 have been reported to date in the Republic.

An additional 512 cases of the Covid-19 virus were reported by the Department of Health on Friday.

Public health officials are keen to establish over the coming weeks what the link between case numbers, hospitalisation and illnesses will be. The chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has said we are facing a significant wave of Delta-driven transmission and we are going to be in the same situation in that respect as all of the rest of western Europe.

Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly has strongly defended the advice received on the Delta variant from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) this week. The advice led the Government to indefinitely halt plans to allow bars and restaurants to begin serving customers indoors from July 5th.

He said Dr Holohan and his colleagues carefully considered all aspects of the issue and he was “disappointed and uncomfortable” with “some of the public commentary and the online vitriol that has been directed at senior figures in Nphet in recent days”.

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