Ireland is to administer some 84,000 Covid-19 vaccines next week, falling short of its weekly target because of ongoing supply issues.
The health service has struggled to ramp up its rollout of the vaccine after manufacturer AstraZeneca said there will be a shortfall of 75,000 doses of the vaccine over two weeks.
The company told HSE bosses that supplies will be made up by the end of the month.
The Government said that 100,000 vaccines would be delivered each week but those figures have been revised downwards to around 82,000 weekly.
HSE Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry said that the vast majority of over 85-year-olds will be vaccinated by Sunday.
He said between 600 and 800 will be completed next week.
Mr Henry told RTE News At One that some GPs had experienced supply issues, but that 1,300 practices received the expected supply.
“One of the features of this programme is that we are completely reliant on supplies,” Mr Henry said.
We are hopeful we will be able to catch up in any shortfall of distribution and administration by thenColm Henry
“In any one week we distributed vaccines in the order of 99% of what we received in that week. We have to keep some back for buffer stock.
“We got a fairly short notice from AstraZeneca of a shortfall of supplies of the order of 75,000 over a two-week interval, but that will be made up, we are told, by the end of quarter one which is the end of March.
“We are hopeful we will be able to catch up in any shortfall of distribution and administration by then.”
He said that 84,000 vaccines would be delivered next week and some 37,000 over-70s will receive their first dose of the vaccine.
Around 10,000 people with underlying conditions will also receive their first dose.
The Cohort 4 group includes people aged 16-69 with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk of severe disease and death.
Hospitals will be working to identify the 84,000 people who will be included in the revised vaccine priority list.
Meanwhile, pregnant women are being urged to continue attending healthcare appointments following a Covid-19 infection.
It follows preliminary reports of four stillbirths that could be linked to the virus in Ireland.
Professor Keelin O’Donoghue, a consultant obstetrician at Cork University Maternity Hospital, said the cases appeared to be a “rare complication” of Covid-19, but she acknowledged that it was “pretty scary” for pregnant women hearing this information.
Women shouldn't be afraid to attend hospital, and they should speak up if there's any concerns about foetal wellbeing or if they experience reduced movementsProfessor Keelin O'Donoghue
“We’re still investigating,” she told RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland programme.
“What we could have here is a cluster by complete chance.”
She said the advice for pregnant women “at a simple level” was to “try not to get Covid”, and to get the coronavirus vaccination when it becomes available.
“For those who have Covid… it’s really important that their healthcare providers know, and that women attend their visits as normal,” she said.
“We all have Covid pathways now in the hospitals.
“Women shouldn’t be afraid to attend hospital, and they should speak up if there’s any concerns about foetal wellbeing or if they experience reduced movements.
“We should assess women who’ve had Covid, a minimum of 14 days after their infection, and undertake an ultrasound to check foetal wellbeing, and women should certainly not ignore any signs or concerns that they might have, and should be listened to when they present to the maternity hospitals.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said on Thursday that public health officials had been made aware of four preliminary reports of stillbirths potentially associated with a condition called Covid placentitis.
At least two of the cases have been this year.
He said he had to wait for the full data to come through and was awaiting full details from coroners.
Dr Glynn warned the reports should be interpreted with “caution” as the coroners had not yet concluded their findings and that the HSE’s National Women and Infants Programme was monitoring the situation.
Prof O’Donoghue said all four cases of stillbirth being investigated were from 24 weeks onwards and where women were symptomatic in three of the four cases, but not critically unwell.
She said: “They had all had recent Covid within two to three weeks, and in some cases presented feeling a change in foetal movements.
“These babies, as far from what we know, were normally grown and the pathologists have found evidence of very similar placental disease in all four that can be linked to the direct effects of Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 infection.”
There have been nine further deaths of people with Covid-19 in Ireland, National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said.
Another 522 infections have been confirmed.
Some 426 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised at 8am today, of which 102 were in intensive care units.
A further 34 additional hospitalisations had been recorded in the previous 24 hours.