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Taoiseach acknowledges 'bumps along the way' with vaccine roll out, says AstraZenaca shortfall will be made up

Government says it’s on target to give first dose to 72,000 over-85s by the end of the first week of March.

The Taoiseach said the AstraZenaca delivery
The Taoiseach said the AstraZenaca delivery "will come through".
Image: Oireachtas.ie

THE TAOISEACH HAS told the Dáil that there have been “without question, been bumps along the way” with the vaccination roll out. 

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, Micheál Martin said the key is the ongoing issue of supply from AstraZeneca, Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna.

Most recently, the issue has been with a shortfall of supply last week from AstraZeneca, he said. 

The delays follow a change in AstraZeneca’s vaccine delivery schedule for last week and this week, something the State’s vaccination taskforce was informed of at “very late notice”, chair of the group Professor Brian MacCraith said on Sunday. 

Professor MacCraith said the delay is “not a reduction in deliveries” and that the State can “recover completely what had been lost” from next weekend.

The HSE failed to hit the Government’s target of administering 100,000 vaccine doses last week due to delivery issues with the AstraZeneca dose.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil today: “The company believes that shortfall will be made up in the next week and will come through.”

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said Opposition parties have been asking the Department of Health to provide daily figures about the performance of the vaccination programme.

“That is important. The Taoiseach and the Minister have said that we are delivering the vaccines, getting them out and administering them as quickly as they arrive but there is no way of gauging that. While we are getting daily figures for the administration of the vaccine, the other side of that equation, that is, the number of vaccines that have arrived in this country, is not available,” she said. 

The only data on vaccine deliveries that are available come from the Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021 – The Path Ahead document, in which a table that is already set out, she said.

“Those are the only official figures we have for the forecasted deliveries and they indicate a substantial gap between the numbers of vaccines forecasted to be delivered and the numbers that are being administered.

“It is a very substantial gap. More than two thirds of the promised supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered. Four fifths of the promised supply of the Moderna vaccine have not yet been administered. The number is smaller in the case of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine,” she added.

She told the Taoiseach that it is important from the point of view of transparency and accountability to allow us to measure the performance of the programme.

“That is not possible at the moment,” she said.

While the Taoiseach said he would revert back to the task force on the issues raised, he said the vaccine task force had to reconfigure following the decision by NIAC to provide the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to the over-70s and the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under-70.

“That meant the roll-out had to be reconfigured through the GP network and as a result there can be a lag in data coming back into the centre. Essentially, we are administering the vaccines we get, apart from the ones that have been kept back for second doses,” he said.

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Shortall said the current figures that are available now indicate that the government is not administering the vaccines that have come in.

“It is not a matter of giving me the figures: these are figures that should be publicly available. It is only when the Government is transparent about this that people will have confidence that the programme is running well,” she said.

As of 27 February, 435,895 Covid-19 vaccines had been administered, said the Taoiseach. Some 294,550 people have received their first dose and 141,345 people have received their second dose.

“We are on target to substantially administer the first dose to 72,000 over-85s by the end of the first week of March and arrangements are being made to vaccinate home-bound elderly people in conjunction with GPs and local community teams,” said Martin.

People aged between 80 and 84 will follow on from the above, he added.

“We have said as soon as we get vaccines in the aim is to use them,” concluded the Taoiseach.

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