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Ireland will begin its “community vaccination” programme in mid-February, the Health Minister has confirmed.
Stephen Donnelly said that jabs will now be made available to older members of society, starting with those aged over 85, working down to people over 70.
But he warned that this can only be achieved if the AstraZeneca vaccine is approved in the coming weeks.
The initial rounds of doses will be delivered by GPs as part of a deal agreed with Government in recent weeks.
30/12/2020 -Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly TD arrives for a cabinet meeting at Government Buildings on Merrion Street, Dublin. (Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins)
Mr Donnelly said: “Today we have confirmed that the community vaccination programme will begin in February, subject to regulatory approval of AstraZeneca.
“Despite anticipated disruption to deliveries, which was announced on Friday 22 January, Ireland will receive a delivery of AstraZeneca vaccine within the expected range for February, although at the lower end of that range.
“Delivery in March is likely to be more impacted and considerably lower than what was originally stated by the company. We continue to prioritise those most vulnerable to Covid-19 in our society against the backdrop of limited supply of vaccines.
“For the moment, people do not need to take any specific action. The next stage of our vaccine programme will begin with those aged 85 years and older and will be administered initially through GPs in their surgeries.
“The HSE is preparing a public information campaign that will provide all necessary details in advance and ensure that everyone knows when, where and how to access their vaccine.”
Mr Donnelly said that most nursing homes residents, with the exception to those who recently had the virus, had been vaccinated.
He also re-emphasised the importance of giving the jab to healthcare workers, which he explained will continue to be a priority in the coming weeks.
“In the meantime, completing vaccinations for those most vulnerable to Covid-19 infection remains the priority,” he said.
“Every possible nursing home resident has already received one dose and some have received second doses.
“Healthcare workers are also a priority. Second doses will be administered over the coming weeks to 77,000 healthcare workers. We will continue to roll out first and second doses to our remaining frontline healthcare workers during February.
“Our vaccination teams were unable to vaccinate some nursing homes residents and staff who had Covid-19 recently, or vaccinate those in some facilities where there were particularly large outbreaks.
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“I would like to reassure those staff and residents that they will be prioritised and vaccinated as soon as possible, and in line with the guidelines drawn up by our National Immunisation Advisory Council.
“The HSE administered 143,000 vaccine doses to Sunday, January 24. I would like to thank the HSE, members of the High-Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination, and their teams, for the effort and commitment they are putting into the efficient roll out of the vaccine programme.
“As we have seen in recent days, in these early stages things can change quickly and we have to build delivery around supply.
“Everyone involved understands the importance of this programme to the country. Everything that can be done is being done, and will be done, to deliver it.”
He concluded: “There is huge interest in our vaccine programme, which is very welcome. I committed recently to providing the public with daily figures, as full transparency is important.
“The HSE has advised that there is a backlog of figures to be inputted and validated. It is working hard to achieve full utilisation of the vaccination IT system at which point it will be in a position to provide updates.”