More members of the Defence Forces will be drafted in to help ramp up the the number of booster jabs a day, the Taoiseach has said.
The Government is under pressure to rapidly accelerate the vaccine programme as concerns over the effects of the Omicron variant escalate.
The Defence Forces will be deployed across to country in a bid to increase the number of daily booster jabs.
The Government also has plans to redeploy staff, increase the number of pop-vaccine centres and extending opening hours to help increase the number of booster vaccines.
🧵Here are today's walk-in #COVIDVaccine clinics. We're operating some walk-in clinics for dose 1 and dose 2, and booster vaccines for healthcare workers and people aged over 50. #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/FwLlcrX17R— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) December 14, 2021
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the Cabinet about plans to increase capacity in the coming weeks.
Mr Donnelly said on Tuesday morning that Government will bring in more measures and scheduling options so more people can get the booster jab.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin was grilled in the Dail about the plans, particularly after the interval time for booster was cut to three months on Monday.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald claimed the Government’s lack of planning has led to issues with the booster rollout.
“We’ve seen problems with the alignment of the booking system between the HSE, GPs and pharmacies,” Ms McDonald added.
“This means that people have received multiple appointments which stay on the system, even when people tried to cancel.
“One person has reported receiving nine appointments, been declared a no-show for each one, despite no longer living in the state.
“The lack of government planning has also hit the number of vaccinators that we have.
“We are down 500 vaccinations since the summer which means the booster campaign is now operating at two thirds of the capacity of the original rollout.
“Taoiseach, you say it’s all hands on deck but the time for big announcements and big targets is over. It’s now time for delivery.”
Be in no doubt, that over the last number of days we have been working with HSE and with public officials in terms of expanding further and extending further the vaccination programmeMicheal Martin
Mr Martin said: “The Defence Forces are involved, have been involved and will be increasing their involvement in supporting the vaccination programme.
“Also the testing programme, because the testing has been ramped up as well.
“There has been an extensive recruitment campaign underway for the last number of weeks in relation to vaccinators, part-time or retired.”
He said there are about 500 pharmacists involved in the programme, with plans to bring on more.
Mr Martin added: “Be in no doubt, that over the last number of days we have been working with HSE and with public officials in terms of expanding further and extending further the vaccination programme.
“There are three essential channels, so the vaccination centres, the GPs and the pharmacies.
“Discussions have been underway with the IMO (Irish Medical Organisation), with GPs for example, in terms of being able to do more, if possible at all, from GPs across the length and breadth of the country.”
Mr Martin said that hours will be extended across vaccination centres.
Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall said there is a need for an increased national effort to ramp up the booster campaign in “every way possible”.
“At the height of the vaccine programme, 400,000 doses were being delivered every week.
“Last week, it was only 220,000 in total here,” she added.
“So we need to again ramp that up very substantially in our settings.
“Clearly the suggestion that vaccine hesitancy was an issue does not hold up.
“We also know that the supply of vaccine doses is not constrained either.
“So what are the limiting factors and what can be done to remove them immediately?
“We clearly don’t have sufficient staff in the vaccine centres and clearly need to to open those centres for a sufficiently long time.”
Mr Donnelly said that said Government ministers got “very sobering advice” about the transmissibility of Omicron over the weekend.
“We have been working through the weekend and have been in touch with Niac (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) as well,” Mr Donnelly added.
“There is a lot being worked through at the moment.
“The most important thing is that we are able to administer as many boosters as possible.
It really is all hands on deck to get as many people boosted as quickly as possibleStephen Donnelly
“We already have the fourth highest booster vaccination rate anywhere in the EU, which is very positive, so we are coming from a very strong place, but it is very important to me and others that we go further.
“It really is all hands on deck to get as many people boosted as quickly as possible.
“In the meantime, the message to everybody is really stronger now than ever.
“The emerging evidence we have on Omicron is that it is absolutely essential that people get their boosters, that the additional protection it gives is very, very significant.”
On Tuesday, another 3,887 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been notified in Ireland.
At 8am, there were 493 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 109 were in intensive care.
Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said that approximately 14% of Tuesday’s cases are due to the Omicron variant.
Results today suggest that approximately 14% of our cases are due to the #Omicron variant.— Dr Tony Holohan (@CMOIreland) December 14, 2021
In line with the experience of many other countries, we can expect this proportion to rise rapidly over the coming days.
“In line with the experience of many other countries, we can expect this proportion to rise rapidly over the coming days,” Dr Holohan added.
“The goal now is to limit the spread of Covid-19 through our tried-and-tested preventive measures.
“These measures can protect us and our families and will allow time for the booster vaccination programme to take effect.
“This means that as we move closer to Christmas, we must try to reduce the number of people we meet, avoid crowds and work from home unless it is essential to attend in person.
“I encourage anyone eligible for a booster vaccination to take that opportunity.
“Boosters are proven to be effective in restoring protection against all variants of Covid-19.”