Ireland to buy almost 10 million doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in 2022 and 2023

Doses to be bought for use as booster shots, as rollout may be extended to under-16s

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

The Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

 

Ireland is to purchase almost 10 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in 2022 and 2023 at a cost of €191 million under plans approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

The vaccines are part of the European Union’s additional purchase agreement with the pharmaceutical giant and are to be bought for the possibility that booster jabs are needed in the years ahead.

Ministers were also told that vaccinations are likely to be extended to persons under 16 years of age.

In addition Cabinet heard that Pfizer/BioNTech are in the process of updating the formulation of the vaccine and that doses secured via the new agreement would be capable of being stored with standard refrigeration.

This will remove the need for the complex cold storage chain currently in place for the vaccine, as it must be kept in freezing temperatures.

Ministers signed off on the purchase pending receipt of the finalised contract from the European Commission and subsequent consideration by the Attorney General and the State Claims Agency.

Under the EU agreement Ireland would secure approximately 4.9 million doses in 2022 and the same again in 2023.

This would be enough to fully vaccinate approximately 2.45 million people with two doses with an associated cost of €191 million.

Ireland will also retain the option of securing an additional 9.8 million doses over the time period.

A Government spokesman said: “Scientific advice indicates that variants will continue to evolve over the coming months and that vaccine immunity is not indefinite.

“Therefore, it is likely that repeated boosters with updated vaccine formulations will be needed for a very high proportion of the population.”

Ministers were also given a general update on the vaccine rollout.

More than 1.6 million doses have been administered as of May 2nd including 1.16 million first doses and 445,000 second doses.

A total of 31 per cent of the population has had at least one dose and 12 per cent are fully vaccinated.

More than 311,000 people between the ages of 60 to 69 have registered for a vaccine, around 74 per cent of the age group.

The spokesman said the portal remains open for those who have not yet registered.

The HSE has been considering possible changes to the rollout to reflect supply issued and advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should effectively be limited to the over-50s.

A suggestion by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in recent days that over-40s could be vaccinated in parallel to over-50s was not discussed at Cabinet.

The spokesman said the HSE’s plan was not ready for Cabinet consideration but that it is either with Mr Donnelly or is to be delivered to him soon.