| 5°C Belfast

Nine freezer lorries arrive in Ireland to assist with vaccine rollout

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said that approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may not be secured until December 29.

Close

Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a press conference at Government Buildings (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a press conference at Government Buildings (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a press conference at Government Buildings (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Nine Covid-19 ultra-low freezer lorries have arrived in the country to assist in the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The vaccine, which requires temperatures of between -70C and -80C to be stored properly, has been shown to be up to 95% effective.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin told the Dail the storage lorries arrived in the country on Tuesday and are being kept at a depot in Citywest.

Close

A patient is given a dose of a coronavirus vaccine produced by BioNTech

A patient is given a dose of a coronavirus vaccine produced by BioNTech

PA

A patient is given a dose of a coronavirus vaccine produced by BioNTech

The UK has already approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and intends to begin its rollout early next week.

But the Taoiseach said an assessment by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which will oversee approval for Ireland, may not be complete until December 29.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told the Irish Times that distribution of a vaccine could start in the first weeks of the new year.

Mr Donnelly said that if the EMA approves the treatment, Irish regulatory approval would follow soon after, with distribution beginning in early January.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday, Mr Martin said: “Work is proceeding at pace.

“Yesterday a delivery was taken of up to nine ultra-low-fridge trucks into the country.

“They’re stored in Citywest.”

He added: “In terms of the Pfizer/BioNTech the infrastructure is already coming into play in terms of the low ultra storage fridges that have now arrived into the country.

“They will be commissioned by the middle of next week.

“Then the issue is they have to be distributed within five days from a central depot when a vaccine ultimately arrives here.”

The executive director of the EMA, Emer Cooke, spoke to EU health ministers on Wednesday morning in relation to the rollout of the vaccine.

Mr Martin said: “At the latest they will assess the PfizerBioNtech vaccine on December 29 at the latest, maybe before that.”

Labour leader Alan Kelly said there were still a number of outstanding questions about the vaccine, and repeated his call for a dedicated minister to oversee its introduction.

He said: “We need a standing group that’s going to be able to deal with this and communicate.

“If private companies come and say they want to vaccinate all their staff are they going to be able to do so?

“Can people buy it privately themselves?

“All of that needs to be in place very, very quickly.

“We need somebody who’s going to be in charge, who’s going to make all those executive decisions.”

Close

People wearing face masks walk past a display at the Science Gallery in Dublin which forms part of their new exhibition ‘Speed of Science’, specially developed with the support of Pfizer. (Brian Lawless/PA)

People wearing face masks walk past a display at the Science Gallery in Dublin which forms part of their new exhibition ‘Speed of Science’, specially developed with the support of Pfizer. (Brian Lawless/PA)

PA

People wearing face masks walk past a display at the Science Gallery in Dublin which forms part of their new exhibition ‘Speed of Science’, specially developed with the support of Pfizer. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Martin has signalled that it will fall to the Minister for Health and the HSE to oversee the rollout.

Five more people have died with Covid-19, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said.

Another 270 infections were confirmed.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “It is important to keep up the progress that we have achieved in recent weeks.

“Ireland now has the lowest 14-day incidence of Covid-19 in the EU according the latest ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) figures and we need to hold firm to this position.

“As the country moves into Level 3, there is no room for complacency in our response to Covid-19.”

Meanwhile, the HSE is to step up its contact-tracing efforts from next week, to determine the source of Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Taoiseach said: “Next week the HSE, on December 8, will commence a new strand of source investigations.

“They’ll go back seven days to actually get to the location where a spreader event began.

“That capacity exists and they’ve been preparing for this.

“I think that will be an important tool to the HSE and the public health teams, to identify super spreader events or events where virus spread originated.”

The Taoiseach also said the Government is examining if requirements for international travellers to take Covid-19 tests could be made mandatory.

It comes amid concerns that international travel, which has dropped to about 10% of 2019 levels, could rise in the lead up to Christmas, potentially increasing the chance of importing cases of Covid-19 into the country.

Random checks are also set to be carried out at ports and airports.

Mr Martin said: “Random checks will be rolled out across airports and ports by immigration officials, who will select a portion of arrivals to see whether they have supporting documentation for either essential travel or a negative Covid-19 PCR test in the possession of the passenger.”

PA


Privacy