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Harris says Ireland will continue 'to look everywhere and anywhere' to ramp up vaccine supply

Separately, there were were 420 patients in hospital with Covid-19 last night.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated Mar 8th 2021, 3:56 PM

VACCINES ARE BEING distributed and administered “as quickly as they’re coming in”, Minister Simon Harris has said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, the Further and Higher Education Minister said that 95% of people over the age of 85 have received their first jab of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Supply issues with vaccines have meant that targets originally set have not been met. 

Harris said: “I really do believe in the months of April, May and June you’re going to see a massive ramp up.”

The minister said the government should consider asking the UK for spare vaccine doses, stating: “I think that is absolutely something that we should look at.”

Speaking later to reporters, Harris said Ireland “will continue to look everywhere and anywhere” for additional vaccine supplies, as countries are allowed to do even within the EU system.

“Government does find itself sometimes between a rock and a hard place on this issue.

“Government says in good faith, the HSE intends to vaccinate x amount of people. Then you find out of the blue that an order of vaccines doesn’t arrive at short notice.

“I personally believe that the best approach for Government to take is to continue to proactively share all of the information that we have with people. I think it’s better to put out the targets with the caveat that things are down to supply,” he said.

The Johnson and Johnson vaccine could be approved by the European Medicines Agency this week, said Harris, stating that the single jab which could prove vital in speeding up the vaccine rollout.

The comments from the minister came after the latest figures from the HSE showed that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 increased slightly over the weekend.

At 8pm on Friday night, there were 401 patients in hospital with Covid-19. At 8pm last night, there were 420 people in hospital with Covid-19. 

This included 103 people receiving care in an ICU. 

This week will also see the first Covid-19 vaccinations among medically vulnerable people who are at a high risk of getting seriously ill from the disease.

Around 10,000 people in this fourth cohort are set to receive a jab this week.

Harris said today: “We also have to be very honest here. In fairness to the HSE and our GPs, they’re getting the vaccines out as quickly as they’re coming in.”

He said that the expected approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine later this week, with Ireland having already ordered over 2 million doses, will be another positive step. 

“We are going to see a very significant ramp up in our vaccine programme in the coming weeks,” the minister said. 

Harris also added that a “huge body of work” was under way across government for the introduction of mandatory quarantine for arrivals from some countries, after legislation was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins over the weekend

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“I think you will see a joined-up effort from government and service providers,” he said. 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said yesterday the next step for government was to sign a contract with a service provider and that would happen “shortly”. 

Speaking earlier to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Brigadier General Brendan McGuinness said the Defence Forces would work closely with all bodies as it supported the mandatory quarantine programme. 

“The Defence Forces will move between all agents, between people who have prescribed roles at the airport,” he said. “We’ll engage with them, we’ll engage with the company transporting the passengers, and we’ll engage with the company accommodating the passengers and of course security as well. 

“We will have that overseeing, connecting role between all those services to make sure that scheme hopefully will run smoothly.”

About the author:

Sean Murray

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