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Mick Wallace says vaccine rollout delay is 'huge concern' and could cost lives

The independent MEP said “the most glaring problem in the last three or four weeks has been the delay in the rollout”.

MEP Mick Wallace (file photo)
MEP Mick Wallace (file photo)
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

MEP MICK WALLACE has said delays to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan in Ireland and other countries is a “huge concern” and could cost lives.

Supply issues and the Irish government’s decision that over-70s should not receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, and instead be given the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, looks set to delay the initial deadline to vaccinate this age group here.

Concerns have also been raised in recent weeks about the number of vaccines AstraZeneca can produce for Europe.

When asked by TheJournal.ie today about these issues, Wallace said there “seem to be serious challenges around AstraZeneca, and I think it does represent a big problem given that they were promising to produce a huge quantity (of the vaccine) and countries right across Europe were banking on them”.

The independent MEP said “the most glaring problem in the last three or four weeks has been the delay in the rollout”.

“The delay in the rollout is a huge, huge concern for so many people across Europe. I was only talking to a woman this morning who is over 75 and was expecting to get the vaccine in late March and now she has been told that she’ll get it in late May.”

Wallace noted that more than 700,000 people with Covid-19 have died across Europe in the last year. He said if the vaccine rollout is delayed by two or three months, “an extra 100,000″ people may die.

“The least that people should be entitled at this stage is to know what’s happening” and when they will be vaccinated, he said.

The MEP for Ireland South was speaking at an online press conference with reporters this afternoon.

As of 5 February, 230,766 people in Ireland had received a Covid-19 vaccine – 151,212 first doses and 79,554 second doses.

‘Paying the price’ 

Wallace also hit out at the rolling lockdowns happening in countries such as Ireland, saying people are now “paying the price” for certain government decisions.

He said “selective” lockdowns resulted in the closure of smaller businesses while allowing some “non-essential” larger industries to remain open.

“We’ve kept big industry open. We’ve kept processing plants open, we’ve kept mines open. We have building sites closed now but they were open most of the time as well and there are 400 to 700 people on some of them,” he said.

“We’ve had a selective lockdown and we paid the price for it. We were caught between two stools of dealing with public health and trying to keep the big economy going, and we’re paying a huge price for it.”

Several vaccines approved or being developed

Also speaking at the press conference, Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune said she is “confident” in AstraZeneca’s efficacy, noting that the European Medicine Agency has approved it for use in over-18s.

A number of European nations have not authorised that particular vaccine for use in over-65s over concerns about its efficacy in that age group.

In Ireland, it is expected that people aged 70 and over will have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by mid-April and second dose in May.

The original plan had been for all people in this age cohort to receive their first dose by the end of March.

The HSE yesterday said, despite some delays, no-one would be “left behind” by the vaccination programme.

Clune noted that Ireland has had to “change the approach in terms of using more of the Pfizer (vaccine) and that’s not as easy – you just have to go with it”.

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The mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna have to be kept at much lower temperatures, making them more difficult to store and transport.

“I think in all these things you have to have confidence and go with what the experts do advise, and those involved in public healthcare,” Clune said. 

Clune, also an MEP for Ireland South, said the fact that three vaccines have been approved for use in the European Union, and others are being developed, is very good progress to have made within a year.

“Normally it can take up to 10 years for a vaccine to be brought to market or to be approved for use. So I think we’ve come a very long way and I have no doubt that in the coming months we’ll see more and more vaccines, the rollout of vaccines will improve,” she said.

Clune added that she does have some concerns about the efficacy of vaccines on new variants of the virus, such as the South African strain.

She noted that the European Commission has asked member states “to invest more and more in genome sequence tracing” in a bid to identify new strains quickly.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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