Covid-19 vaccine: Where does Ireland’s roll-out stand?

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At least 4,000 people have received a first dose in the Republic, versus 50,000 in the North. Photo: PA Images.
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By Digital Desk Staff

At least 4,000 people are confirmed to have received the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in the Republic.

Meanwhile, around 50,000 people have received a first dose of a vaccine to protect against the virus in Northern Ireland.

A roll-out has gotten underway more rapidly north of the Border, as the UK has issued ultra-fast emergency use clearance for vaccines. This differs from the European Medicines Agency’s conditional marketing approval, which it says requires more detailed study of each vaccine's data.

The UK has also employed tactics to maximise the roll-out of vaccines that have divided experts, such as delaying the delivery of a second dose so that a greater number of people can receive the first jab and gain partial protection.

The Irish Times reports that by the end of December, one in every 2,500 people in the Republic had been vaccinated, compared with one in eight in Israel and one in 80 or so in the US and the UK.

Nursing homes

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In the North, 91 per cent of care home residents have received a first dose of a vaccine as of Wednesday, according to health minister Robin Swann.

In the Republic, the first vaccinations of care home residents were due to take place on Monday but were delayed due to issues with consent forms.

The first dose was instead issued to a nursing home resident on Tuesday, with residents in 16 care homes now due to receive their first dose of the Pfizer jab on Thursday.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he intends for all residents of the Republic’s 580 nursing homes to have received their first vaccine dose by the end of January.

The Taoiseach said 75,000 people in long-term care facilities, both residents and staff, will receive both doses by the end of February.

Healthcare workers

In terms of healthcare workers, 30,000 healthcare staff have received a vaccine in the North.

In the Republic, at least 4,000 healthcare staff had received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine as of Monday.

The Government has said it aims to supply up to 60,000 frontline healthcare workers with both doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's two-shot vaccine by the middle of February.

New approvals

Up until Wednesday, the only vaccine approved for use in the Republic was the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, while further options such as Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s jab were approved at earlier date and are being distributed north of the Border.

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However, the EMA has now approved Moderna Inc's Covid-19 vaccine for use in the European Union, which Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said will allow the country to vaccinate an additional 10,000 people each week.

Prior to the authorisation of the Moderna vaccine, the Government intended to vaccinate 135,000 people by the end of February with two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — a figure that may now be increased with the approval of the Moderna jab.

It is unclear when the first shipments of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in the country following its green light from the EU drugs regulator.

However, more than 35,000 people will be given the Pfizer BioNTech jab this week according to the Taoiseach — an increase from an initially-planned 20,000 following the arrival of an extra shipment.

Micheál Martin has defended the pace of the Republic’s roll-out, saying vaccines would be delivered with the supply chain: “As we get vaccines, we will be injecting.”

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