US in same position as Europe on Covid-19 vaccines, says Martin

US does not necessarily have stockpile of vaccines to release to other states, says Taoiseach

Mr Martin said that his private meeting with the president, which lasted one hour and 15 minutes, was ‘a warm upbeat’ one.

The United States is in the same position as most other countries in terms of trying to scramble for enough Covid-19 vaccines for its own population, US president Joe Biden has told Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Following a long online meeting between both leaders to mark St Patrick’s Day, Mr Martin said the US does not necessarily have a stockpile of vaccines to release to other countries.

“President Biden’s main focus is getting his own people vaccinated,” said Mr Martin in Government Buildings after his virtual meeting with Mr Biden.

Mr Martin said his private meeting with the US president, which lasted one hour and 15 minutes, was “a warm upbeat” one.


Asked about the key question of vaccine supply, and if he asked Mr Biden if it were possible for US manufactures to supply Ireland, the Taosieach replied that the president had told him the US was facing the same logistical challenge as Europe in terms of accessing sufficient supply for its own population.

“He is keen to have a higher volume of manufacture. That is his key focus right now,” said the Taoiseach.

“He wants the US to have enough [supply] to vaccinate their own people. He will know later on where US stands.”

He said that assessment would likely occur during the summer.

In terms of the situation in the EU and in Ireland, Mr Martin said that if the European Medicines Agency decided on Thursday to confirm the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Irish authorities would move quickly to vaccinate those whose appointments were postponed during the pause.

“It will take some time. People have to be notified We will be doing everything we possible can to accelerate the vaccination programme, particularly for people who had it postponed,” he said.

“It is within our capacity to catch up. I was heartened by Pfizer announcing it would make 110,000 additional doses available,” he said.

He also said that the National Task Force on vaccine supply was still confident there would be a “robust situation in quarter two [April to June] in relation to vaccination supply”.

He said the EU in particular had lost out because of shortfalls in Astra Zeneca supplies and there was a certain annoyance about that from leaders.

“AstraZeneca is conscious of this and know it has a bit of ground to make up in meeting obligations to Europe.”

Mr Martin said Mr Biden had again expressed a strong desire to visit Ireland. “He said his family will not forgive him if he does not come to Ireland at some stage.”

The Taoiseach also said he hoped to visit the US once the public health situation has improved to meet Mr Biden in person.

He said that on the issue of Brexit, Mr Biden reiterated his strong commitment to the Belfast Agreement. The Taoiseach said he provided an update on how the situation has evolved 2½ months on from Brexit.

He said that Ireland’s work on the UN Security Council had also been discussed and the US had praised its work trying to get humanitarian aid to the stricken Tigray region of Ethiopia, currently at the centre of a vicious civil war.

The situation with undocumented Irish in the US was also discussed. Mr Martin said the sense he got was the authorities there are working on “a broader reform package involving a number of countries”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times