Covid-19: 450,000 could be vaccinated weekly by mid-June – Taoiseach

Government to ‘keep close’ to target of 82% of adults to receive first dose by end June

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said about 4.5 million doses of vaccine are due up to the end of June. Photograph: iStock

Almost half a million people could be vaccinated for Covid-19 every week by mid-June and the HSE could reach its overall targets if doses arrive as scheduled, according to the Taoiseach.

Micheál Martin told the Dáil the Government is committed to “keep close” to its targets to have 82 per cent of the adult population receive their first Covid-19 vaccine dose by the end of June.

As concerns were raised about the vaccination programme rollout in the wake of delays in delivery of doses, Mr Martin said 191,800 doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines had arrived in Ireland today, the largest delivery to date.

He said about 4.5 million doses of vaccine are due up to the end of June and 450,000 people could be vaccinated weekly by mid-June. Last week 183,000 received an injection.


But, he said “we don’t have the capacity to provide a menu of vaccines for people to choose from”.

The HSE “will take a number of days to go through advice from Niac [National Immunisation Advisory Committee]” about vaccine delivery and “will come back with a revised approach” following the recommendation that Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines should be administered to the over-50s.

Mr Martin told Labour leader Alan Kelly in the Dáil that 27.5 per cent of the adult population have received their first dose of vaccine and 10.9 per cent have received a second dose.

Answering questions about the vaccination programme, Mr Martin said all projections were based on supply but the Government is “committed to keep close to those targets by the end of June”.

Mr Kelly said he had noticed a “change in the language in the last 24 hours” and the Minister for Health had asked people “not to be fixated” on end of June to achieve the 82 per cent vaccination target.

The Labour leader said it was the Taoiseach who set the target and Mr Kelly asked if it was achievable “unless there’s some miracle going to happen here because the projections just don’t work”.

He also expressed concern that of the 480,000 people between 60 and 69 years of age, 220,000 people had not registered with the HSE to be vaccinated.

They would get the AstraZeneca vaccine and would have to wait 12 weeks for a second dose while the over-50s will receive the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine. The over-70s are also fully vaccinated.

But the Taoiseach said there has been “a very good momentum in terms of people registering for the vaccine” and he stressed that they could not offer a “menu of vaccines”.

He said, “We’ve got to get out the vaccines as quickly as we get them in.”

Earlier Mr Martin reiterated that there would be no “cliff-edge” to cuts in pandemic welfare supports as the economy begins to reopen.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald repeatedly challenged the Taoiseach to confirm that the income supports families depend on “will not be pulled from under them”.

Mr Martin said to date about €28 billion had been provided, half of which was through the pandemic unemployment payment and wage subsidy schemes, in addition to core programmes as well as a range of enterprise and other supports.

The Dublin Central TD told Mr Martin, “You’re being cautious and careful with reopening [of the economy]. I’m asking you to be cautious and careful with these families, and to give clarity that the supports that they rely on will not be cut or phased out for so long as there is a public health emergency.”

She said they must “retain the full level of support that has been afforded to them” until the businesses reopen.

Mr Martin said the Government has been very clear that “we would return all supports to the end of June, and that there would be no cliff-edge withdrawal of support. I’m very, very clear about that”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times