Government taskforce established for Covid-19 vaccine rollout

ireland
Government Taskforce Established For Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout
Speaking before an Oireachtas committee, the HSE chief also rejected claims that more than half a million doses of the flu vaccine had gone missing.
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By Digital Desk Staff. Additional reporting by PA.

A newly-established Government taskforce has met for the first time this morning in order to discuss the potential rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that a "high-level" vaccine strategy committee had been established under the chairmanship of the Department of Health.

It follows an announcement by drugs giant Pfizer that early data suggests its vaccine candidate is more than 90 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19 infection.

The European Commission signed a contract this morning for the company to produce an initial 200 million doses of the vaccine for EU member states, with Ireland set to receive over two million of the doses - approximately one per cent.

“The high-level vaccine taskforce will be tasked with co-ordinating preparations and ensuring the nationwide roll-out of a Covid-19 vaccine when one is safe and ready to be distributed,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.

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Mr Martin said that the HSE set up its own group at the behest of the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

“We decided to set up a whole-of-government group that will take in expertise from outside Government in regard to organising the logistical operation that will be required,” he added.

“The Cabinet took that decision yesterday and the group will be chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith from DCU.”

Others involved in the taskforce include chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, HSE chief executive Paul Reid, Liz Canavan, chairwoman of the senior officials group on Covid-19, Barry Lowry, Government chief information officer and Paul Quinn, Government chief procurement officer.

“In addition, there will be a nominee yet to be confirmed from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, a logistics cold chain expert and a project management expert,” Mr Martin said.

Flu vaccine

Speaking before an Oireachtas health committee on Wednesday, HSE chief Paul Reid said the taskforce had been established to focus on the “procurement, distribution and an immunisation programme” in the event a vaccine was approved for use, however, he cautioned it was “very early stages”.

Mr Reid said Covid-19 restrictions are having “enduring consequences” for the country’s health services, which was working “in the knowledge that we will be delivering services within a Covid-19 environment until after the development of a vaccine or cure”.

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Mr Reid also rejected claims that more than half a million doses of the flu vaccine had gone missing.

He told the committee that 600,000 doses sent to GPs and pharmacies had not yet been administered, after it was reported earlier on Wednesday that the doses of vaccine could not be located.

“There are no missing vaccines, there is always a lag time between people registering [doses administered], but we just want to see where the allocation is and how to prioritise the final distribution,” he said.

Given the stock we have, I am reasonably confident those vaccines are going to those high-priority groups

Mr Reid told the Oireachtas committee there had been a 20 per cent increase in the number of vaccines distributed compared to previous years and that 1.3 million doses had been distributed in total.

Mr Reid also said there has been “very significant demand” from private clinics for the flu vaccine which has left private services under pressure.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane asked the HSE to guarantee that those in “high-risk” categories will be vaccinated.

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Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, said he was not in a position to guarantee the actions of every GP across the country.

But he added: “Based on strong, consistent messaging and based on our need to prioritise those groups, given the stock we have, I am reasonably confident those vaccines are going to those high-priority groups.”

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor also revealed around 2,000 health staff are currently on leave because of Covid-19.

She said a “significant number” of those workers have chronic conditions and are cocooning, while more than 1,000 are on Covid-19 leave.

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