Community vaccinations will begin as planned next month despite disruptions to the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the Minister for Health said.
Stephen Donnelly said on Monday that Ireland will receive a delivery within the expected range of doses for February, “although at the lower end of that range”.
Non-healthcare workers over the age of 70 will begin in the middle of February as planned, he said.
However, vaccine delivery in March is anticipated to be more severely impacted and “considerably lower” that what was initially stated by the company.
It came as the European Commission demanded an explanation from AstraZeneca over the disruption to its vaccine delivery.
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 January 22, 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.”
Well done to our vaccinating teams who completed 143,000 vaccinations to Sunday (Jan 24). This is a great result and tribute to all involved @paulreiddublin @CcoHse @HSELive @roinnslainte @muirtheimhne Will be issuing brief statement later on AstraZeneca and our plan for February
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) January 25, 2021
As of Sunday, the HSE has administered 143,000 vaccine doses.
Two doses delivered three or four weeks apart are required for the vaccines currently in use in Ireland, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which have secured European Medicines Agency approval.
Under the Vaccine Allocation Strategy, people aged 70 and older will be vaccinated in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79 and then 70-74. These will be administered through GPs in their surgeries.
The HSE is preparing a public information campaign that will provide all necessary details in advance to the public, to ensure that everyone knows when, where and how to access their vaccine, Mr Donnelly said.
He added: “In the meantime, completing vaccinations for those most vulnerable to Covid-19 infection remains the priority.
“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.”
On Monday, the European Commission issued a strongly worded statement demanding answers from pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca over the delays to its delivery schedule.
The EU wants to know exactly which doses have been produced where by @AstraZeneca so far, and if, or to whom, they have been delivered.
The answers of the company during the Steering Board discussion have not been satisfactory so far. A second meeting is scheduled for tonight.
— Stella Kyriakides (@SKyriakidesEU) January 25, 2021
Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “The EU wants to know exactly which doses have been produced whereby AstraZeneca so far, and if, or to whom, they have been delivered.”
It suggests a suspicion on the EU side that vaccines produced by AstraZeneca that were destined for Europe have been sent elsewhere.
AstraZeneca have blamed the delays on problems with the European supply chain.
Ms Kyriakides said: “We want clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU.”
She said said answers provided by AstraZeneca during a virtual meeting of member state health officials and the European Commission on Monday were “not satisfactory”.