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Ireland has overtaken the UK in fully vaccinating its population against Covid

Ireland has now fully vaccinated 72.5% of its adult population compared to the UK’s 71.8%.

Patients receive there first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by nurses at the HSE Vaccination Centre in the Aviva Stadium.
Patients receive there first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by nurses at the HSE Vaccination Centre in the Aviva Stadium.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated Jul 30th 2021, 7:00 PM

IRELAND HAS OVERTAKEN the UK in terms of the number of adults fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The most recent figures show that Ireland has now fully vaccinated 72.5% of its adult population compared to the UK’s 71.8%. 

Ireland still lags slightly in the number of first doses administered. Ireland has administered at least one dose to 87.3% of the population compared to the UK’s 88.4%.

It is expected, however, that this gap will close over the coming days.

For the two-shot vaccines, the intervals differ between the two jurisdictions. For example, Irish authorities recommend that the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab be administered no later than four weeks after the first dose, while in the United Kingdom this is eight weeks. The guidance around intervals has changed in both jurisdictions over the course of the last six months. 

However, the figures are somewhat complicated by the fact that the UK has not administered any one-shot Janssen vaccines to its population.

One dose of this vaccine can be counted as having administered “at least one dose” while simultaneously resulting in someone being fully vaccinated.

The UK’s vaccination rollout began on 8 December, almost three weeks before Ireland administered its first dose, and it sped ahead of other European countries in the weeks and months that followed. 

As the EU become entangled in a bitter row with manufacturer AstraZeneca – which supplied vaccines to the UK first under a contract signed last year – Ireland’s rollout was interminably slow as the third wave of the virus took hold at the start of the year.

However, supplies gradually increased and reliable and consistent consignments started arriving in Ireland each week from April onwards enabling the HSE to “ramp up” the programme and work down through the age cohorts. 

The UK has seen similarly high levels of vaccine uptake among its population but evidence suggests certain regions are slowing down.

The UK introduced a policy of leaving a 12-week gap between AstraZeneca doses which was subsequently reduced to eight weeks.

Ireland insisted on the same gap initially but this was later reduced down to between eight weeks and 12 weeks, and then later again to between four weeks and 12 weeks.

Northern Ireland could be facing a more severe wave of Covid-19 than other parts of the UK due to its flagging vaccination rate, Stormont’s chief scientific adviser warned this week. 

Professor Ian Young said there is concern that people in the region appear less willing to get a jab than those in the UK.

His comments to the Assembly’s Health Committee came as the head of the vaccination programme, Patricia Donnelly, said uptake rates have “gone off a cliff” since the rollout opened to under-30s.

Also appearing before the committee, which was recalled from recess to discuss the increasing Covid pressures within hospitals,  Donnelly confirmed that vaccine booster jabs will start to be rolled out in Northern Ireland in September.

In Northern Ireland, as of Thursday 83% of the adult population have received first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine while 71% are fully vaccinated.

Just under 60% of 18 to 29-year-olds have received a first jab. The next lowest uptake rate is 70% for the 30-39 age group. All cohorts over the age of 60 have a 100% uptake rate.

Professor Young told the committee: “I have to note that we lag behind England, Scotland and Wales in terms of first dose vaccination by around by 5% to 6% minimum, and in some cases by more than that.

“In terms of second doses vaccination, we’re very similar to England and Scotland but we lag behind Wales by about 10%.

“So, there has been a concern that the willingness of the Northern Ireland population to come forward for vaccination, for whatever reason, seems less than that in other parts of the UK and that will lead to a larger susceptible population in Northern Ireland and therefore the potential for a more severe wave on this occasion.

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“Every small percentage increase in vaccination that we can achieve will make a real difference in terms of how quickly the current wave will resolve and the potential for future waves.”

Donnelly told MLAs on the committee that vaccination uptake among the 18-29 age cohort has been “incredibly slow”.

She said it is a cause of “enormous concern” that the pace of the vaccination programme “went off a cliff” in June when it opened to this younger age group.

Meanwhile, as Northern Ireland prepares to shut down a number of its mass walk-in vaccination centres, Ireland this weekend opened its first such centres with Public Health officials this week encouraging younger age groups to get vaccinated. 

The broad consensus in countries with high vaccine uptake – and countries wealthy enough to buy them – is that normal life won’t resume for some time but that the more people who get vaccinated the less risk Covid-19 poses and the less need there is for restrictions. 

Speaking at a NPHET briefing earlier this week Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan touched on the concept of herd immunity, an idea he said isn’t particularly helpful from a public health standpoint. 

Holohan said NPHET does not have a target of 90% herd immunity – it does not use that concept, he said. But he said it does endeavour to ensure the highest uptake amongst those offered vaccination.

He added that NPHET will not talk about herd immunity because “it’s not strictly in public health terms meaningful in the context of this particular illness” which he said has mutated multiple times since the pandemic first began. 

- with reporting by Nicky Ryan

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