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More than 80% of people to be offered first vaccine dose by the end of June, says Tánaiste

The Tánaiste says he hopes government can do better than the September target.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said he expects more than 80% of people will be offered their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of June.

Speaking at tonight’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, he told TDs and senators that he believes the September vaccination target can be met, but hopes we can do better than that.

The meeting heard, if approved by the European Medicines Agency on 11 March, the  single dose Johnson&Johnson vaccine will be in deployed in the country in April.

It is hoped that the government will be able to inform people reliably by the end of the month when they can expect to get their jab, the meeting was told. 

The Tánaiste also addressed concerns that were raised in relation to recent vaccine targets not being met. 

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.”

Varadkar said the missed target was outside of the Government’s control as it was down to an AstraZeneca order not being met. He said this will happen from time to time but targets will be exceeded in other weeks.

The Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting also heard from Brendan Smith and Dara Calleary over missed target concerns, however it is understood that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was not at the meeting this evening. 

Due to Donnelly’s absence, Calleary is understood to have asked for the issue be tabled to be a specific agenda item next week. He also raised concerns with the Taoiseach about GPs only being contacted now about housebound patients two months into the vaccine roll out, stating there is confusion among GPs. 

The Taoiseach said he would speak to the HSE boss Paul Reid about finding urgent solutions.

He said he had been in direct contact with the HSE on a dedicated line to respond to queries regarding the vaccine rollout and to assist with queries from GPs .

Micheál Martin also said a package of supports will be developed for young people many of whom have been impacted by the pandemic.

Regarding Bank of Ireland closing branches across the country, which a number of TDs have raised concerns about in the Dáil today and its impact on rural Ireland, Varadkar said it could create opportunities for some landmark buildings in towns and villages nationwide to potentially be used for other purposes for their local communities.

The Taoiseach also told members that the unilateral move by the UK government on the Northern Ireland Protocol is”unhelpful and a cause for concern”.

“We need to work through the issues in a calm way,” he said.

Varadkar is also understood to “not have held back” when discussing the matter of a Green Party TD launching a High Court challenge against the government’s plans to sign up to the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (Ceta).

Patrick Costello, TD for Dublin South Central, told his party on Monday evening that he had lodged proceedings.

The Tánaiste said he views it to be as serious, if not more so, than a government TD voting against the coalition in the Dáil.

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He said he has discussed the matter with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, telling Fine Gael members this evening that he can not think of another time that such an issue has arisen.

The Taoiseach also spoke about the issue of illegal adoption, which is being featured in an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme this evening. He said the cases are “shocking”.

“We will ensure those affected are helped and supported. It is critical that they have access to their identity and we are advancing the information tracing legislation as a priority,” he said, stating that Heads of Bill are expected at the end of this month.

 

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