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Paul Reid: 10,000 vaccine doses to be given to high-risk people aged 16-69 this week

Arlene Foster says there will be an issue with different levels of vaccination across Ireland.

Image: Leah Farrell

Updated Mar 7th 2021, 5:17 PM

PEOPLE BETWEEN THE ages of 16 and 69 with serious illnesses will start receiving vaccinations this week, HSE chief executive Paul Reid has confirmed. 

The HSE plans to administer about 10,000 vaccines to people who fall into a very high-risk category overall, starting “during the week”. 

Reid said the HSE welcomed the decision by the national immunisation advisory committee to prioritise people with serious illnesses between the ages of 16 to 69, and that it is now working to identify those concerned. 

“It’s not necessarily a very simple list of people we can identify but we have already
started the process,” Reid told RTÉ’s This Week programme, adding that the list could comprise up to 150,000 people. 

The HSE notified GPs last night of an expected delay in their vaccine deliveries of the Moderna vaccine this week,  as the available vaccine supply for next week is approximately 15% less than what is needed to vaccinate the full over-80 cohort. 

“The scheduled delivery of Moderna over the next couple of weeks, again, is rescheduled slightly,” said Reid. 

“But we just want to make sure for next week that we have assurance with the GPs that they understand exactly what they’re getting.

“So for example, next week we have 37,000 vaccines, the mRNA vaccines between Pfizer and Moderna, to be vaccinated in the 80 to 85-year-olds. 

However, the request or the requirement and total numbers from the GPS would be about 15% above that for next week so what we are saying to the GPS, we want to be clear around what they can expect to be delivered vs their order so there are no surprises. 

Reid said about 95% of the 72,500 over-85s age group had been completed as the three-week programme come to an end. 

He said about 30 GP practices would innoculate the rest of that age cohort into next week, while the national ambulance service will assist over-85s who have been are not in a position to get to either a vaccination centre or GP practice. 

He added that long term care facilities for older people will be completed by the end of next, and that the 80-84 program was underway in parts of the country. 

The HSE said it expects the totality of the over-70s programme to be completed within the original timeframe of mid-May.

“To facilitate the inviting of patients for vaccination, as we consolidate the new arrangements, the HSE will confirm GP orders between 24 and 48 hours before vaccine delivery day.  For all subsequent deliveries the HSE is working towards providing GPs with 7 days’ notice,” the HSE said in a statement. 

We apologise for any undue pressure or inconvenience these delivery changes have caused GPs and their patients.

Reid acknowledged that there have been “significant issues” in terms of supply, and noted that issues around the delivery of AstraZeneca “impacted us particularly over the last couple of weeks”.

“If you take last Friday week we had very short notice of delivery of just over 64,000 from AstraZeneca. That impacted us on that week because we planned to use those on that Saturday and Sunday. So because we’re operating at a very tight efficiency level an impact like that does impact us very significantly in the week.”

Reid said the HSE has been assured by AstraZeneca that those shortfalls will be made up over the next few weeks, and that they will live up to their commitment of about 377,000 doses for the quarter in total. 

He added that AstraZeneca recently appointed a country manager which he believes will strengthen Ireland’s engagement with them directly. 

Defending the HSE’s rollout, Reid said: “I think the real issue is missed commitments on delivery rather than missed targets by ourselves.”

Trouble ahead 

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster expressed concern at the pace of the vaccination programme in the Republic, and says there’ll be an issue with the different levels of vaccination across Ireland.

She said she believes UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson should have a conversation with Taoiseach Micheál Martin about the possibility of surplus vaccines being given to the Republic.

Foster said it is her desire that everyone on the island is vaccinated as quickly as possible. She blamed the “inflexibility of the EU” for the differential.

Northern Ireland started its vaccine rollout earlier than the Republic as part of the UK programme.

The UK became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer jab, with the first vaccinations administered on 8 December.

Ireland is part of an EU rollout and had to wait until the EU approved jabs. Its first vaccinations were administered almost a month later on 29 December.

It was reported on Thursday that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had asked the vaccine high-level task force to examine whether Ireland can procure extra vaccines in parallel with the EU supply deal.

A number of TDs had asked what was being done to get more vaccine supplies, pointing out that other countries in the EU were striking their own separate deals, including Germany.

“I have asked the task force to take a look at what other legitimate avenues might be available,” Donnelly said.

Reid said that the HSE is currently working through the EU process for vaccine supply but “if there were to be vaccines available from the UK that would be a matter for our own government to work through”.

Foster said 40% of the population in Northern Ireland have had their first dose of the jab and said she is alarmed by the figures in the Republic.

“There will have to be conversations about how we move forward in this,” she told RTE Radio’s This Week programme.

Obviously, we will be taking advice from our Chief Medical Officer [Dr Michael McBride] as to what are the best ways forward, but it is my desire of course, as a neighbour, to see everyone vaccinated on the island of Ireland and I very hope much that the vaccine programme in the Republic does pick up pace because it’s important that if people are coming and travelling across the border that they are vaccinated, but also for the population of the Republic as well.

Foster said Dr McBride has made it clear that if a lot of people are coming to Northern Ireland who are not vaccinated it “could have an impact on the efficacy” of the vaccine on those who have received it.

She said that so far Stormont has advised people to be sensible rather than issue a ban on crossing the border.

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“That’s something we haven’t done unlike the Republic, we have never had that rule, we have tried to say to people to be sensible and not move between different jurisdictions during the different lockdowns,” she said.

“But I think we want to take advice from our medical experts on all of these issues.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced yesterday that Ireland had passed the half a million vaccine dose milestone. 

As of last night, there were 416 patients with Covid-19 in Irish hospitals, including 102 patients in intensive care.

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital has been continuously falling since a peak of 2,020 cases in mid-January.

Health officials yesterday confirmed that a further 14 people with Covid-19 died in Ireland. The number of people with the virus who have died in Ireland now stands at 4,419.

The National Public Health Emergency Team also said that 539 new cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed, bringing the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland to 222,699.

- With reporting from PA

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Adam Daly

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