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'Parallel' vaccination of age cohorts could soon be in place as supplies increase, Martin says

The HSE yesterday confirmed that it is currently reworking its Covid-19 vaccination plans.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Image: Julien Behal Photography via RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said there may be a “parallel” vaccination system as supplies begin to increase, vaccinating two cohorts at the same time. 

The HSE yesterday confirmed that it is currently reworking its Covid-19 vaccination plans following fresh advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). 

The NIAC guidance, which has been accepted by government, included a recommendation that the vaccine should be offered earlier than planned to pregnant women between 14 and 36 weeks gestation.

The committee also advised that both the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and the AstraZeneca jab should be used for those aged 50 and over.

“We’re once again working on a revised plan based on recent recommendations by NIAC and decisions by government,” said HSE CEO Paul Reid yesterday morning. 

He said the new plan – version 27 – will be finalised over the weekend and early next week.

“It will be a plan that accommodates the various adjustments that we have to make and continues to increase our administration of vaccines based on available supplies,” he said.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that the revised plan will stick to the delivery of vaccination by age cohorts. It was confirmed last night that the portal for the 50-59 age cohort will open in the coming weeks. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this morning that as volumes of vaccines come into Ireland, there may be “parallel” vaccination, meaning two age cohorts being vaccinated at the same time. 

“Next week, there may be parallel vaccination as the volumes come in because we’re not going to have vaccines in the fridges,” Martin said. 

“So, when you get to the very high volumes, and next week will be a high volume week for example, you could have parallel vaccinations, we could be moving more quickly,” he said. 

In relation to those who may be hesitant to accept certain Covid-19 vaccines, Martin reiterated that “all the vaccines are very, very effective”. 

“The bottom line is we would encourage people to sign up. We don’t have a sufficient supply yet to start creating a choice or a menu to say ‘you can have this or you can have that’,” Martin said. 

“We’d have mayhem otherwise. You couldn’t organise what has been an unprecedented vaccine programme in the history of the state through a menu,” he said. 

Yesterday, HSE chief Paul Reid gave an update on vaccination figures so far and plans for next week.

Up to Wednesday evening, 28.2% of the adult population have received a first dose and 11.1% have received two doses and are fully vaccinated.

He said the health service is on target this week to deliver 160,000-180,000 doses. Tomorrow, a GP-led clinic at the Helix vaccination centre in Dublin will administer 4,500 doses, primarily to those aged 70-79 who are due their second dose.

Next week, the target is 220,000-240,000 vaccine doses. Reid said those aged 50-59 will be invited to register “shortly”, but said he could not provide a specific timeframe for this until after the current plans are revised.

The Taoiseach yesterday evening announced a wide-ranging ease of restrictions, striking a much more hopeful tone than previous Covid-19 announcements. 

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The main measures have been well-flagged over the past few days – with a significant easing of lockdown restrictions to take effect next month and into June. 

The new measures include recommencing inter-county travel, increased numbers at funerals and weddings, and hairdressers and barbers reopening their doors.

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