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Chief Medical Officer says 'we are in a strong position' but urges caution over coming weeks

The CMO’s statement comes after the HSE confirmed earlier this week that 219,200 vaccinations have been administered in Ireland.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan
Image: Sasko Lazarov

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has said Ireland is in a “strong position” after six weeks of Level 5 restrictions. 

In a statement, Dr Holohan said the advent of vaccines within one year of Ireland’s first case of Covid-19 is “beyond any expectations” but urged the public to continue to follow public health advice to suppress transmission. 

“The measures we have had to take individually and collectively to protect against further transmission have had a major impact on each one of us and on the wider social and economic functioning of the whole country,” said Holohan. 

“But we have hope for a different future in which vaccines are a key part of our public health response. Vaccines will help to protect against the severe effects of SARS-CoV-2 virus and protect the most vulnerable in our population. In time we are hopeful that the evidence will show that they also help to prevent people who have this infection from passing it on to other people.

It is beyond any expectations we had when the first case of this infection was reported in Ireland on 29 February last, that within one year we would have multiple vaccines developed, tested and being made available to our population. It is an immense scientific and public health achievement.

Holohan announced earlier this week that mRNA vaccines should be administered to all those over 70 years in order to provide “the highest level of protection available to this population. 

“Unlike AstraZeneca, these are mRNA vaccines so called because of the manner in which they work. More vaccines will be authorised in the coming weeks and months, providing us with further options for protection against Covid-19,” said Holohan. 

He said that over-70s have had to “shoulder the greatest burden of ill health, hospitalisation and mortality during this pandemic.”

“It is a matter of great importance that we as a country can now offer the vaccines we believe to be most effective to the people who are most vulnerable.”

The CMO’s statement comes after the HSE confirmed earlier this week that 219,200 vaccinations have been administered in Ireland. That is a further 57,700 doses administered since last week

Of the 219,200 vaccines administered so far, 86,200 have been in long-term residential care settings – all of which have been first doses – with 133,000 administered to frontline healthcare workers. 

Of those, 78,000 have been given a first dose with 55,000 frontline healthcare workers now fully vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it’s “more complicated” to give older people the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

“We’ll settle this in the next couple of days. But it is possible to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to GPs practices. It’s more complicated because it has to be kept at a lower temperature. But it can be done,” he said.

“As has often been the case, there are things outside of our control, both the supply of the vaccines and authorization, and we have to adapt to that. But it still means that we’re going to be able to have at least 1.2 million doses before the end of March, and it still allows us to start vaccinating the over 85s from the middle of February,” Varadkar said.

The Tánaiste told TheJournal.ie that the issues relating to the vaccine and the over 70s was not something that was expected.

“To be honest, it wasn’t foreseen. It was only when the German authorities expressed a concern about the age of the over 70s that this arose as an issue last week. And then there was the issue around the amount of AstraZeneca vaccine we’d get. So you know, it is a situation that is changing all the time,” he said.

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The latest bump in Ireland’s vaccine roadmap comes after health officials confirmed a further 1,037 cases of Covid-19 and 35 deaths, and as the country faces four more weeks of Level 5 restrictions. 

Said Dr Holohan last night: “We are in a strong position. Thanks to the efforts of the population in staying home, limiting contacts and following public health advice there has been a substantial decrease in disease incidence and we can see that we are suppressing this third wave of COVID-19 infection faster than any other country in Europe.”

“It is very important that we keep this up. With a daily case number in excess of 1,000 we know we need to make more progress with the measures that Government has mandated until 5 March.”

It is especially important that those who have been vaccinated keep following the same advice as everyone else because we don’t yet have enough good evidence that vaccination can stop them spreading the infection.

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