Vaccines for 35-59 year olds to start in June while 24-34 year olds wait until July, Department says
Taskforce is currently reviewing the Covid jab rollout plan due to supply issues
Members of the Defence Forces at the Citywest Covid-19 Vaccination Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
People aged between 35 and 59 are set to begin getting Covid-19 vaccinations in June but it will be July before younger people start to be inoculated, the Department of Health has said.
It comes as Fianna Fáil Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that people in their 40s may be vaccinated in parallel to those in their 50s.
The State on Friday received its biggest shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to date, with the delivery of 165,000 doses on Friday.
The doses against Covid-19 are expected to be used immediately in immunising those aged between 50 and 70, although the Health Service Executive is in the process of drawing up a revised overall vaccination plan.
In a graphic release on Friday the Department outlined how vaccines for the over 70s , the over 60s and those at very high risk would be well advanced in May.
In June, vaccination for those at high risk would be well advanced, while the innoculation of those aged 35 to 59 would also be “underway”.
In July, those aged 25 to 34 could expect to start receiving their first dose.
It does not offer a prediction for when people aged 16 to 24 will be vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Mr Donnelly said the current rollout where over 60s are being vaccinated is going “very well” and the online portal for the over-50s opens next week.
Significant supplies of Johnson & Johnson are not expected to arrive in Ireland for some weeks.
On the possibility of people in their 40s being vaccinated at the same time as those in their 50s, Mr Donnelly said: “I want to stress, we’re running the numbers at the moments, we’ll be working on this through the weekend and we’ll be looking at various policy options early next week.”
Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show insisted all four vaccines available are “incredibly effective”.
Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have been linked to rare blood clots and are being administered to the over-50s because they are deemed to be at much less risk of developing such a side-effect.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously said that those who refuse an AstraZeneca vaccine would find themselves waiting until the end of the vaccine rollout to be inoculated while Minister Simon Coveney said there would be at the end of the queue.
Mr Donnelly said that’s not a phrase he would use and the vast majority of people are taking the vaccine they’re offered.
He agreed with the thrust of the remarks by his Government colleagues saying: “I think it is fair because the alternative is to be offering all sorts of different vaccines and that would be one that would slow the programme right down.
“It’s not a luxury we have.”
Mr Donnelly said it will be “challenging” to meet the Government’s target of having 82 per cent of all adults vaccinated by the end of June as there have been “a lot of bumps along the road”.
He said if the expected vaccine delivery happens “we would be on target to have four in every five adults who wants a vaccine to either be vaccinated, or, you know, signed up on the portal ready.”
Earlier on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government’s target was that 82 per cent of the adult population would have received at least on shot of a vaccine by the end of June but again said that there was always the risk of disruptions in supply and it would be challenging.
“We are expecting about 4.5 million doses in by end of Quarter 2. That would be sufficient to meet that 82 per cent first dose target.
“We are very dependent on the supplies. It will be very challenging.”
He defended the Astra Zeneca vaccine and said that it been highly effective in the UK where it was the main vaccine.
“Many people have taken it and are glad they have taken it,” he said. “The overarching advice is that all the vaccines are safe. “
Asked about those hesitant to take Astra Zeneca he said: “We would encourage people to sign up. We do not sufficiencies of supply yet to start offering a choice. We would have mayhem otherwise.”
Elsewhere director general of the HSE Paul Reid confirmed that the vaccination roll out will continue on the basis of age.
Registration for the over 50s will commence shortly, he told Newstalk Breakfast and will operate in the same way as it did for over 60s - starting with 59-year-olds, and then working down.
“We’re making good progress in getting through the 60-69s - there are now over 305,000 people registered on the portal. We made a recommendation to continue on now and open up to 50-59s. They will commence over the next two to three weeks.”
People can expect to hear about an appointment around two weeks after they register. It was unclear which vaccines the over 50s would receive.
Mr Reid said supply was expected to pick up in May and June, and the authorities were now working with all suppliers to get more certainty on deliveries for the coming months.
The HSE expected to administer 220,000 - 240,000 doses next week, he said. There were 30 mass vaccination centres now open, with six more opening next week and the final two the following week.
Mr Reid said the HSE shared the “cautious optimism” expressed by the Government yesterday about the easing of restrictions. There was a need for caution as large groups of the population still were not vaccinated.
However, he said there had been big benefits for those groups already vaccinated.
Mr Donnelly was asked about the easing of restrictions announced on Thursday night and what level the country is going to be at in its Covid-19 plan.
He said: “We know we’re at level five, and you could make an argument that we’re moving, you know, to a three plus or a four minus.”
He added: “I think at this point it’s probably better to just look at the measures that have been announced”.
Mr Donnelly said five levels in the Government plan are useful architecture but they can be discounted “to an extent” in favour of focusing on what measures have been relaxed.
Mr Varadkar said last night that there could be an “emergency brake” on reopening as the impact of the staggered easing of restrictions is assessed.
Mr Donnelly said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will be offering advice but “ultimately the pulling of any such brake is a decision by Government”.
He added: “My job as Minister of Health is to be nervous right now. There’s a lot of positivity. I’m going to be getting up every single day through May nervous - looking at the infection rates, looking at the cases looking at the outbreaks because while it is positive, it’s volatile.”
He said: “The advice we have is that if we embrace these measures its low to moderate risk but if we go beyond them... we could have a problem.”