A new high level Government committee to handle the roll out of Covid-19 vaccines in the State held its first meeting on Wednesday morning, HSE chief executive Paul Reid told the Oireachtas Health Committee.
Earlier Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil that the State will receive about 1 per cent of the vaccines made available through the EU collective purchase scheme. The EU will buy approximately 300 million units of vaccine.
The Taoiseach said that people vulnerable to Covid-19 would be prioritised once safe vaccines to prevent the virus are approved and ready.
Mr Martin said the taskforce will be chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith of DCU. The Chief Medical Officer will also be on the committee along withMr Reid Reid, chair of the senior officials group on Covid-19 Liz Canavan, Government chief information officer Barry Lowry, Government chief procurement officer Paul Quinn, a yet to be confirmed officials from the Department of Business, along with a logistics cold chain expert and project management expert.
The EU has agreed to buy up to 300 million doses of the groundbreaking coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer. Pfizer said deliveries were expected to begin by the end of the year, subject to the vaccine receiving regulatory approval from the European Medicines Agency.
The jabs will be made in Germany and Belgium, and member states that opted into the deal would place orders separately, the company said. Initial trial results released by the companies on Monday showed the vaccine to be more than 90 per cent effective.
Mr Martin was responding to Labour leader Alan Kelly who called for a detailed plan to be drawn up which he said needed to be done very soon to cope with the roll-out of approved vaccines.
The Tipperary TD said the taskforce needed to update the public on a regular basis about its work programme and this should be done weekly.
He told the Taoiseach: “We need a detailed plan from you very soon”, adding that there needed to be co-ordination across the healthcare system.
Mr Kelly pointed to difficulties with the roll-out of the flu vaccine and how 50,000 units had been held back to ascertain where it was most needed.
“We need to dramatically improve how we roll out the flu vaccine,” and to prepare for an effective roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The Taoiseach said the State will get 1 per cent of the vaccine and he acknowledged Mr Kelly’s concern about the logistical issues around the Pfizer vaccine requirement for storage at minus 80 degrees.
And he added that there would be regular updates about the taskforce’s programme and the roll-out of the vaccine.
The Taoiseach also defended the holding back of flu vaccines and said that there had to be measuring of where the vaccine was going and the prioritising of targeted patients who were most vulnerable.