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Changes to advice on vaccine rollout could see people under 50 move up queue

The HSE is to make adjustments to the rollout plans based on NIAC advice in the coming days, the Taoiseach told the Dail.

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(PA)

(PA)

(PA)

Changes to the advice on the vaccine rollout could see people under 50 moved up the queue, the Dail has heard.

Government this week signed off on a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Council (NIAC) that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs be give to over 50s only.

The HSE is to make adjustments to the rollout plans based on this advice in the coming days, the Taoiseach told the Dail on Wednesday.

It's very clear that we're going to have to get moving and get vaccinating with available vaccines as they come inTaoiseach Micheal Martin

The new advice presents a logistical problem, because the vast majority of the J&J vaccines are due at the end of June, by which point the 50 to 59 age cohort should already be vaccinated.

Raising the issue during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday, Labour’s Alan Kelly queried if this meant younger people would move up the queue.

He said: “How are you going to ensure that the Janssen vaccine is used for 50 and 59-year-olds without skipping that cohort, and going down to younger cohorts, and then coming back to them?

“Is that being considered, or what is the plan?

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“Because logistically, it’s very difficult to see how it can work without doing so.

“That’s coming in late June, and all people from 50 to 59 should have their first vaccination by then.”

The Taoiseach responded: “In terms of the operational logistics, in terms of age cohorts, the HSE is working through that.

“It’s very clear that we’re going to have to get moving and get vaccinating with available vaccines as they come in.”

He added: “The HSE will now take a number of days to go through the advice from NIAC in respect of AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, to work that into planning.

“They’ll be coming back with a revised approach, following the advice from NIAC which which is understandable.”

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Labour leader Alan Kelly (Brian Lawless/PA).

Labour leader Alan Kelly (Brian Lawless/PA).

PA

Labour leader Alan Kelly (Brian Lawless/PA).

Mr Kelly also said he had noticed a “change in language” around vaccine targets since the NIAC advice was confirmed.

Questions have arisen over the Government’s target of vaccinating 82% of the population by June.

Responding, Mr Martin said: “The objective is to get as many people vaccinated as we possibly can, notwithstanding all of the obstacles that have arisen, to keep close to those targets by the end of June.”

Ireland has just received more than 190,000 doses of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine for Covid-19, the largest shipment to date.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin told the Dail: “There was very good news today in terms of PfizerBioNTech. The largest ever delivery has arrived, 191,800 Pfizer vaccines have arrived.”

Last week 183,000 vaccines were administered in the country.

Earlier, the Taoiseach said Ireland will be in a “very good position by June” when asked about the vaccination targets.

He said the Government is “still pursuing that target”.

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People walk past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist CHELS (Chelsea Jacobs), reflecting the uncertain future of children due to Covid-19 restrictions (Niall Carson/PA)

People walk past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist CHELS (Chelsea Jacobs), reflecting the uncertain future of children due to Covid-19 restrictions (Niall Carson/PA)

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People walk past a new mural at Dublin’s Grand Canal Docks by the artist CHELS (Chelsea Jacobs), reflecting the uncertain future of children due to Covid-19 restrictions (Niall Carson/PA)

He told Northern Sound: “The original target was to try and get 80% (of adult population) a first dose by the end of June and there has been changes to the schedule, there has been delays.

“We have lost a number of weeks because of the various advices from NIAC, particularly on AstraZeneca and the cancellation of Johnson & Johnson.

“We are still pursing that target and going after that target.

“I’m saying the deliveries that are coming in to the country in Q2 is over four million, before the end of June.

“We have advice coming in, and if it doesn’t come in with any further hitches we will have a very robust vaccination programme.

“We will be in a very good position by June.”

Mr Martin confirmed that he registered for his vaccination on Tuesday.

The Taoiseach said the vaccine programme will be key to reopening society.

As of Monday, 1,417,942 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered in Ireland.

To date, Ireland has received 1,146,600 Pfizer jabs, 391,200 AstraZeneca vaccines, 163,200 Moderna doses and 14,400 Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines this year.

Around 50% of Moderna vaccines are held back for second doses.

About 95% of available vaccines are administered within seven days of arrival in Ireland.

A Cabinet sub-committee is meeting on Wednesday to consider what restrictions can be eased next month.

The committee is made up of the three coalition leaders, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath.

They will receive advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), before making a recommendation to the whole Cabinet on Thursday, ahead of an official announcement later in the evening.

It is anticipated that the Government will also set out plans for June and July.

The Irish public have been living with high levels of Covid-19 restrictions since December last year.

“It has been difficult for people, but the majority of people want the restrictions to work and they adhere to the restrictions and we now have one of the lowest incidence in Europe, and we have taken the pressure off our frontline services,” Mr Martin said.

Restrictions are expected to be eased on non-essential retail, personal services such as hairdressers, construction and religious ceremonies on a staggered basis throughout May.

Museums, galleries, libraries and some outdoor attractions will also reopen in May.

The hospitality sector is likely to follow in June.

Wednesday saw 13 further deaths and 371 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Ireland, the Department of Health said.

Three of the deaths occurred in April, three in March, and seven in February or earlier.

The five-day moving average of new cases is 424.

Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population stands at 121.2.

On Wednesday morning, 153 people with coronavirus were in hospital – including 45 in intensive care.


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