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Taoiseach says there'll be 'limited volumes' of vaccine supply in January and February

Micheal Martin said the “optimal period” for the vaccine roll-out would be May and June.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said there will be “limited volumes” of Covid-19 vaccine in January and February and that May and June is likely to be the “optimal period” for the vaccine roll-out. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the government’s plans for the Covid-19 vaccine, Martin said he would hope it could start being administered to priority groups “the following week” after it is approved. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is set to have an extraordinary emergency meeting in relation to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by 29 December at the latest and a similar meeting in relation to the Moderna vaccination on 12 January.

Martin said that “a whole workforce of planning” is involved in looking at administering the vaccine to the first priority groups and that further details of roll-out plans would be published tomorrow. 

He cautioned however that the process is likely to take some months: 

Just to say that what will happen at European level, and at the Irish level, January and February will have a limited volumes of vaccine, and they go to the priority areas that we’ve identified. We will have enough for the areas of priority. The bigger volumes will start coming in March, April and May as other vaccines come on stream and as the manufacturing of vaccines ramps up across the world.

“There’s a timeframe to this and people need to be aware of this and this is not just in Ireland it’s everywhere,” the Taoiseach added.

“I think your optimal period is moving towards to May/June period, and then we’ll be completely open after that. So there is a kind of a staged timeline approach, depending on the availability of the vaccine, the manufacturing of the vaccine and as they come in to the country.”

The High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination delivered its report to government last last week and its content will be discussed by Cabinet tomorrow. 

Under sequencing plans, care home residents over the age of 65 and staff at these facilities will receive the vaccine first.

Next in line will be frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact roles, and then those aged 70 and older, with people aged 85 and over receiving the vaccine first among that cohort.

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Speaking this morning, the Taoiseach said that people should view the vaccine as “a complementary tool to the measures we are already using in terms of restrictions”. 

Yesterday, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan has said he was concerned that the incidence of Covid-19 is beginning to rise after 429 new cases were confirmed last night. 

The Taoiseach said he was also “concerned” about this increase but that he noted that Ireland is still at a low level compared to most EU member states. 

“We were in a different position coming into the EU Council meeting in terms of the low numbers we have in Ireland, but of course we know how this can grow exponentially, and the virus can grow so I am concerned about it,” he said. 

“We had six weeks of severe restrictions, I think it was only the natural and the right thing to do to ease up on those restrictions. At the end of those six weeks personal behaviour is essential now as we move into the Christmas period, we’ve all got to watch our contacts.” 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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