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Tánaiste says there could be widespread Covid-19 immunity in Ireland by next September

Varadkar said that a communications campaign would be “vital” to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Image: RollingNews.ie

TANÁISTE LEO VARADKAR is reasonably confident that a Covid-19 vaccine will start to be rolled out in Ireland next month with wider population immunity possible by next September. 

Varadkar was speaking at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this evening where he said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee will decide on the future rollout and they will make a decision in the coming weeks.

Varadkar said vaccines are safe and effective and could have a “real and meaningful impact for the country” next year before wider population immunity would be achieved next September or October.

The meeting heard that the Government currently has purchase orders on five or six vaccines. Varadkar said that a communications campaign would be “vital” to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

The Tánaiste also told the meeting tonight that indemnities had been given to pharmaceutical companies previously during swine flu and said the safety profile of the current vaccines being considered by the EU look positive. 

However, it remains unclear how long a vaccine will be effective for and there were a number of “unknowns” around potential vaccines. 

It comes after nine ultra-low temperature Covid-19 vaccine trucks arrived into the country to aid with the roll out of a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

The vaccine needs to be kept at -70 degrees, and specialised freezers are needed to store the vaccine.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Committee on Health this afternoon, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that his “unambiguous view” is that the State should cover all costs associated with a vaccine, but that no government decision on specific details has yet been made.

“We can’t have any situation where there would be any question of access being a problem because of affordability,” Donnelly said.

Earlier today, speaking during Leaders’ Questions, the Taoiseach said the work of the government’s vaccine task force is “proceeding at pace”. 

Planning is underway as how to roll out the vaccine, with the infrastructure for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine “already coming into play”, said Micheál Martin.

Martin said the HSE will be a key driver in the implementation of the plan, while the Department of Health and the Minister for Health will oversee operations.

The European Medicines Agency will assess “at the latest” the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by 29 December, “maybe before that”, said the Taoiseach.

He said the responsibility on the agency is “huge”, telling the Dail that its job is recommending that a vaccine is safe and effective.

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With reporting by Christina Finn

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