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Vaccines for 40 to 44-year-olds set to begin in the middle of June

Dr Colm Henry said that supply difficulties mean it is “very hard to be certain” about reaching targets.

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PEOPLE IN THEIR early 40s who register to receive a Covid-19 vaccine should expect to start to be scheduled for appointments in the middle of June.

The online vaccine booking portal is due to open for 40 to 44 year-olds this week, according to HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry.

Speaking on Newstalk this morning, Dr Henry said the rollout has had a “huge impact in terms of a collapse in [the virus'] harm” among people who have been vaccinated.

The new target set by the government is to fully vaccinate 2.5 million people by the end of July.

Currently, around 50% of adults – 1.9 million – have received a first dose, including 20% who have been fully vaccinated.

The government has also been aiming to bring at least one dose to 80% of the eligible population by 30 June, but recent analysis of data by The Journal indicates this milestone is more likely to be reached in the first or second week of July.

Dr Henry said that “looking into June, we hope to finish out the 50 to 59s”.

“We’ll be opening the portal for 40 to 44-year-olds later this week and hopefully beginning them the middle of June,” he said.

“We aim to gave got through the great majority of those within the end of the month into July.”

Dr Henry said that he would “love to say” the 80% target would definitely be reached, but that “with these supply difficulties, it’s very hard to be certain”.

“We’ve been pushed one side to another, buffeted by the supplies right from the beginning,” he said.

“The one constant, the Pfizer vaccine schedule, the supplies have been remarkably constant, and yet between AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, we’ve received last minute changes of deliveries, sometimes deliveries we anticipate for one month being pushed to the end of the month.”

“There has been a volatility which has marked the programme,” he said.

Dr Henry said that the uptake of the vaccine has been “astonishing”.

“Over eighty years of age, 98% of eligible people have taken it. 70 to 79 year olds took it in their droves. 95% of 60-69 year olds – we were worried because it was the AstraZeneca vaccine only they were being offered – almost 90% uptake and so on.” 

Four vaccines against Covid-19 have been approved for use in Ireland: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

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Last week, the European Medicines Agency recommended that the use of the Pfizer vaccine could be expanded to children between ages 12 and 15.

The next stage of easing Covid-19 restrictions in Ireland was set out by Taoiseach Michéal Martin on Friday.

Over the weekend, large crowds gathered in city centres as temperatures reached highs of more than 20 degrees Celsius, leading to gardaí dispersing crowds and arrests for public order offences.

“Outdoors is safer than indoors, but big congested crowds for long periods of time with alcohol and the virus do not mix well,” Henry said this morning.

“Younger people, for the most part did their best to protect their older citizens and huge acknowledgement is required by all of us to them, because they’ve suffered also from isolation and from lost opportunities in life, and not being able to travel, do all the normal things we were able to do,” he said.

“So it’s understandable why people would feel then would feel the need to have some kind of release, as we see that beginning of easing of social restrictions. But what I would say also is that some of the scenes looked like V day, in the sense that it was as if the virus had surrendered, and this this virus doesn’t surrender. It exploits complacency.”

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