Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke
The HSE’s executive director Paul Reid has called the refusal of nursing home staffed to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as "inexcusable" but insists such instances are a rarity.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Reid said the take up among residents in nursing homes had been almost 100 per cent and was in the "high 90s" for staff, he said.
"I find it inexcusable that staff in a nursing home would not take the vaccine," he said.
Mr Reid pointed out that if there was a situation where a member of staff refused then the nursing home would have to carry out risk assessment and if the member of staff was patient facing then they would have to be employed in another role.
But it was "a very minor issue" as there had been "a huge take up,” he added.
Also speaking this morning, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry said getting the over-70s cohort vaccinated as quickly as possible is the priority of the vaccination programme.
No person will be left behind.
“No person will be left behind,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland about concerns that some people in the over-70 age group would not be able to leave their homes to be vaccinated.
The sequence of vaccinations will be from the highest age downwards, he said.
The great majority will be able to travel directly to either their GP’s surgery or the vaccination hub, but the HSE would make sure that vaccinators would go to “everybody’s home if absolutely necessary.”
There would have to be “agility and flexibility” with the plan to roll out the scheme through GPs. “We can’t just rigidly go down the list.”
“We will go through the different age cohorts from over-85 downwards,” he said, but there would be parallels and over-lapping in the vaccination priority list, he added.
There was enough guaranteed supply of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines coming through for these age groups, he said.
When asked if the information on the AstraZeneca vaccine changed would it then be given to the over-70s, Dr Henry said that there was positive information coming through all the time and that if the advice from National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) changed that plans would be adjusted accordingly.
Healthcare workers will start receiving the first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from today.
The first delivery of 21,600 doses arrived on Saturday, although 35,000 are promised by the end of this week.
The decision was taken to only administer the latest vaccine to be approved by the European Medicines Agency to those aged under 70, as researchers have found there is not enough evidence to suggest the shot is as effective in older people as it is in younger cohorts.
As the AstraZeneca doses do not need to be stored at low temperatures, they are easier to distribute and will be a key driver in the wider rollout of vaccines.
However, South Africa has chosen to suspend the use of AstraZeneca's shot after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild to moderate infection caused by the country's dominant variant.
According to figures published by the Government on February 3rd, 152,200 first doses of the vaccine have now been administered in the State and 67,000 second doses.
Yesterday, Mr Reid said up to 40 mass vaccination centres will be established around the country to administer the doses.
Some centres could have between 40-50 lanes, while others will have 10-20 bays for people to receive the jabs.