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Health Minister seeks early delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines

An early delivery would be sent to GPs and pharmacies to be ready for use when the vaccine approved.

Image: Shutterstock/Olena Yakobchuk

THE HEALTH MINISTER is trying to secure an early delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Ireland to begin vaccinations as soon as the jab receives European approval.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is looking into receiving a delivery of the vaccine before it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) so that vaccination can expand quickly once it gets the green light.

The EMA is due to make a decision on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine on 29 January.

However, when it approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in December, it moved forward its timeline shortly before its meeting.

If the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is delivered early, it would be sent to GPs and pharmacies to be ready for use when it is approved.

Speaking on Newstalk, Donnelly said that “when we look back at Pfizer, the EMA at very short notice brought that decision forward a week”.

“What I would like to see, if possible, is that we get the AstraZeneca vaccine into Ireland and ideally into all the GP surgeries and pharmacies so the moment the EMA and European Commission authorise it, I then have to sign a statutory instrument that authorises it for use in Ireland, and we get vaccinating straight away,” Donnelly said.

“It may not be possible, there are regulatory hurdles, AstraZeneca themselves might not do it,” he said.

“But what I want to make sure and what I know everyone working on this procurement programme wants to make sure is that not a single day is wasted.”

When the Pfizer vaccine arrived into Ireland on St Stephen’s Day, it took three days before the first vaccine was administered.

If the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved, it will allow weekly vaccinations to increase to 100,000 in February, the Tánaiste said earlier this week.

It would be the third vaccine against Covid-19 to be approved for use in Europe, following Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Clinical trials of the vaccine showed that it provoked an antibody and T-cell response in the body.

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