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No Cabinet discussion on vaccine delays, but Ireland reaching out to other EU countries for additional supplies

Micheál Martin said Boris Johnson has “made this point” to him.

The Taoiseach pictured ahead of last week's Cabinet meeting.
The Taoiseach pictured ahead of last week's Cabinet meeting.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

Updated Mar 9th 2021, 8:00 PM

THERE WAS NO discussion on the delays in the vaccine roll out at today’s Cabinet meeting, it is understood. 

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said  he was “disappointed” with some of the issues relating to the vaccine supply.

However, a government spokesperson told reporters no update on the vaccine programme was given to ministers today given the very long agenda of the meeting. 

The Taoiseach told the media today that he had been told by Boris Johnson that the UK is not in a position to give surplus Covid-19 vaccines to the Republic of Ireland.

Martin said that Johnson’s first priority is to vaccinate people living in the UK.

The Taoiseach last week downplayed suggestions that Ireland could engage with individual states for unused vaccines. 

However, a government spokesperson said today that government officials have been in touch with other EU countries, as well as pharmaceutical companies abroad and at home, about securing extra supplies. 

He confirmed that Irish officials have had discussions with Germany, Latvia, Denmark as well as the UK on securing additional supplies, however, each country have said as of now there are no spare doses. 

Ireland is struggling to meet its vaccine targets following a number of delivery issues.

These are affecting the government’s vaccine programme, with question marks over its plan to roll out one million vaccines in April.

Speaking today, Martin said: “The British Prime Minister has made it clear to me that obviously his first priority is to vaccinate his people.

It would be helpful to Ireland if the situation arose, but right now he has to concentrate on vaccinating his own people.

“Until then he won’t be in a position to give vaccines to anybody and he has made that point to me, which I thought was fairly obvious at the outset.”

Asked about the supply, Martin said: “We are disappointed with quarter one in terms of the issues, but in terms of protecting the most vulnerable, we have made progress on that and the impact of the vaccines is very positive.

“We have seen that in terms of healthcare workers, hospitals and in nursing homes in particular, and now out in the community in the over-80s. That is good news.

“We have very good vaccines that are giving protection to people as well.”

While the government press secretary said “Ireland is trying everything it can to source additional supply”, the deputy government spokesperson acknowledged that the supply issue is “deeply concerning”. 

Government TDs are becoming increasingly frustrated with the issues relating to the vaccine roll out.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said the Taoiseach and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly needed to “play the hard ball” with the pharmaceutical companies.

The TD also said Ireland shouldn’t just be relying on the EU’s purchase power.

“Other countries have made arrangements with individual countries to purchase extra vaccines.

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“I know for a fact because I gave the information to the Minister that an American supplier is willing to arrange a supply for Ireland,” he said.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One this afternoon, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said Ireland is “better off” working within the EU framework in order to increase vaccine supply. 

“While I absolutely accept the frustration that these developments are causing given how dependent we are all on the vaccine to arrive, we have administered 513,000 vaccines over the last number of weeks,” said Donohoe. 

“We will have so much more vaccines available in the second quarter of the year than we do at the moment. And as quickly as the vaccine comes into Ireland, we will turn that into vaccinations.”

The Taoiseach said the government will review the current Level 5 restrictions in a number of weeks. They are currently due to stay in place until 5 April. 

It is believed that Cabinet will meet before that date, most likely the week of the 30 March, to discuss any easing of the restrictions.

“We will take the advice from NPHET and public health, and concentrate on the areas already identified in terms of the sporting and outdoor activity that we indicated we would look at. It will depend on where the numbers are.

“But we are making progress as a country, and the adherence to the regulations does matter, particularly in context of a variant.

“We are taking the pressure off the frontline workers… We will be in a better position before April 5 to make informed decisions,” the Taoiseach said today.

With reporting by Press Association 

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