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Colm Henry: 'We need to make sure this vaccine reaches every road in Ireland'

The nursing home vaccine roll out is now almost complete, as the next phase is set to begin on Monday.

THE VACCINE ROLL out must reach every road in Ireland as the next phase is set to begin, Dr Colm Henry has said.

The next phase of the vaccine roll out, the inoculation of people over the age of 85, will begin on Monday. Henry said that he and his team are confident that most of these vaccinations will be concluded by May.

Speaking on RTÉ News at One Henry said that the nursing home vaccination programme is now nearing an end.

He said that his team have been working closely with GPs to determine the next course of action.

“We’ve been working hard with the GP community over the past few weeks to address this priority group number three.

“We want to move beyond the work we’ve done in the residential care facilities, move beyond as we complete the vaccination of frontline health care workers to this older group.

“For a couple of weeks now, to finalize this rollout, we are using the intelligence of the GP community, using the advocacy they have and using the engagement they have with older patients.

“We need to make sure this vaccine reaches up and down every road in Ireland to get the right people,” he said.

When questioned about the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine on older people Henry said that the roll out programme was using the “best evidence” they have at the moment to determine which vaccine to administer.

He explained that they would not be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to the over 70s but, at present, they would be inoculating this cohort with the mRNA vaccines.

“The mRNA vaccines give an additional protection to older people, for this reason we’re going to attempt to give that vaccine to everybody over 70 years,” he added.

Henry said that the roll out of vaccines to nursing homes settings went beyond “literal interpretation of residential care facilities”

He said that this phase went to “anywhere where there were congregated settings of older people” – this included religious communities.

Henry indicated that it is now emerging that first dose alone is offering some increased protection against the virus with serious illness risks reduced.  

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He said that there are “positive news” results coming from an Israeli study, which began in December, showing a 60% reduction in hospitalisations after the first dose.

Henry said that he hopes that they will be just weeks or months away from seeing a similar impact in Ireland.

“We’d like to see a situation where this breaks down transmission of the virus but we don’t know that yet.

“That will only emerge through population observation of the impact of the vaccine uptake and correlating that with the number of new cases of Covid-19 and see whether they were in vaccinated people or unvaccinated people,” he explained.

Henry said he hopes to have the next phases, the elderly people in communities, completed by mid-May.  

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