The HSE chief clinical officer, Dr Colm Henry has called on the public not to attend any events or protests on St Patrick’s Day.
“I understand people’s frustrations,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
“I really believe we’re going to see great improvements this year” as had already been seen in Israel, he said.
“I urge people to remember that this virus has not gone away. We are still seeing people being hospitalised and ending up in ICU.”
Dr Henry said he understood that public confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine would be “rattled” by the pause in its use, but a robust investigation by the EMA would strengthen confidence in the vaccine, he said.
“This is a pause, it is disappointing, it is a set back for the programme – it’s not stopping, it’s just a pause,” he added.
Immunologist Paul Moynagh told the same programme that it was prudent to allow the EMA to reach its decision as doubt had been created and public confidence had to be re-established.
Prof Moynagh pointed out that 11 million doses of AstraZeneca had been used in the UK and a further five million in Europe and no safety signals had arisen.
Some cases of blood clotting conditions had arisen in Denmark and while they did not appear to be connected the EMA had exercised a judgment call. He hoped that the "pause" would be lifted very quickly.
Dr Henry explained that the core aim of the vaccination programme was to create herd immunity and protect the vulnerable, to do that confidence was important, so it had been prudent to pause the use of AstraZeneca as other countries, such as Holland, had done.
“It’s a pause to take the time to assess the evidence.”
When asked if the fear of litigation had prompted the pause, Dr Henry said he had never heard it mentioned by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
The sole intention was to get the vaccine out to as many people as quickly and as safely as possible, Dr Henry added.