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Donnelly says vaccine timeframe is 'realistic' as 217 people with Covid-19 in ICUs

The Health Minister said today that he still thinks it’s realistic to expect all adults to be offered a Covid vaccine by September.

THERE ARE NOW 1,727 people with Covid-19 in hospital, with 217 in ICU.

Updated figures on the Covid Data Hub show that there have been 87 admissions to hospitals in the past 24 hours, and 13 admissions to ICUs.

graph Source: Covid Data Hub

Yesterday morning, there were 1,823 people in hospital, and 216 people in ICU.

While announcing that Level 5 restrictions would be in place for another five weeks, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the best-case scenario projections show that there will be around 800 people with Covid-19 in hospitals and 100 people in ICUs by the end of February.

It comes as the total number of deaths from Covid-19 also rose above 3,000 for the first time yesterday. There were 90 deaths and 928 new Covid cases confirmed.

“On this date last year, we convened the Crisis Management Team of the HSE for Covid-19,” HSE chief Paul Reid said today.

“There’s been so many sad and tough days. We haven’t got everything right but there’s a lot that we have. We’ll continue to do all we can to protect the public, our patients & our staff.”

shutterstock_1725612559 File photo. Source: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

A vaccine for all by September

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme this morning, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it is still “realistic” to assume that every adult in Ireland will be offered a Covid-19 vaccine if vaccines are approved for use when expected.

Donnelly said that September is still a “realistic” timeframe to expect that the Covid vaccine will be offered to all adults in Ireland. “It’s not a promise, it’s a projection based on vaccinations that haven’t yet been applied for authorisation [being approved].”

On the Zero Covid approach, which has been much talked about in recent days but not supported by the Taoiseach or Tánaiste, he said: “The more ideas that are on the table the better.”

“In theory we can close the borders for two years – they’re even denying Australian citizens [at the Australian border] – but the North and UK government have ruled out checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, and we’re not going to seal the border with the six counties,” he said.

Many citizens in Northern Ireland are Irish citizens, Donnelly added. Work is ongoing with British Health Secretary Matt Hancock at “exploring” a two-island approach to tackling the virus.

AstraZeneca order delayed

When asked about the delay of the EU’s order for the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine, Donnelly said that Ireland’s original order was for 600,000 doses by the end of March. 

Reports indicate that this could fall to as low as 300,000 doses because of a change in the order promised by AstraZeneca. Today, AstraZeneca met with the EU to discuss the issue.

Cabinet 022 Source: Sasko Lazarov

“The EU got blindsided by AstraZeneca saying there will be a major reduction of the supply,” Donnelly said, adding that how many people are vaccinated with those doses depends on the length of the gap needed between the two doses. 

It’s been suggested in the UK that the length of time between vaccine doses can be extended, from four weeks to as long as 12 weeks, to extend protection to as many people as possible while more vaccine supplies come on stream.

When asked if the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is safe for people aged over 65, after reports from two German newspapers suggested the EMA wouldn’t approve the vaccine for use in over 65s, Donnelly said: “We have to wait to see what the EMA says. In the UK there wasn’t [a problem], there’s no upper age limit on it.”

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Vaccinating health workers and nursing home residents

Donnelly said that around 70,000 frontline healthcare workers haven’t yet received their first vaccine dose, but said that all frontline healthcare workers will receive the second dose by mid-March, and this will be supplied by Pfizer and Moderna. 

Speaking about the redeployment of the vaccine from hospitals to nursing homes in some cases, Donnelly said that those in long-term healthcare settings are first on the priority list for the vaccine, and frontline healthcare workers are second on the list.

The decision was made to roll the vaccine out to both groups at the same time. After a request was made to speed up the administration of the vaccine to nursing homes, the 40,000 doses of the vaccine ‘in reserve’, aka ‘the buffer’, were used.

“Nursing homes were meant to be done over three weeks, instead they were done over two weeks, using 20,000 in the buffer,” Donnelly said.

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