Ireland has ordered enough Covid-19 vaccines to fully vaccinate its population of some five million people twice over, according to the Minister for Health.
The Irish Times reports that Stephen Donnelly said the State has total orders in place for 18.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines — enough to vaccinate 10.3 million people.
Minister Donnelly told a media briefing on Wednesday that the Government had taken up every option to purchase vaccines that had been put to it.
He had brought a memo to Cabinet on Tuesday to allow for the purchase of 1.1 million doses of Novovax's vaccine and 330,000 doses of Valneva's vaccine, in addition to existing orders, he said.
According to the Minister, the Valneva vaccine can be stored for 18 months. Its Italian manufacturer has yet to apply for authorisation in Europe.
To administer the vaccine doses that have been ordered, Minister Donnelly said that over 7,000 vaccinators have been trained.
He added that he would like to see dentists and optometrists brought into the rollout.
The Minister said there would be “brighter days” ahead for the vaccine rollout from April, when over one million doses would be administered, subject to the delivery of ordered supplies.
Asked about the prospects for next winter, Mr Donnelly said there were “unknowns” but at this stage the evidence suggested it would be very different from the past winter.
Prof Karina Butler, chairwoman of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), said that people at elevated risk of contracting Covid-19 may yet be moved up the priority list for receiving a vaccine.
As part of a rolling review of vaccine prioritisation, carers, people required to work in certain workplaces and those living in congregated settings will be considered.
It follows the announcement on Tuesday evening that people with underlying health conditions are being moved up the list.
On the recommendation of NIAC, people deemed at very high risk, such as those actively receiving treatment for cancer, will be moved to Cohort 4 and vaccinated after those over 70.
People aged 16 to 69 deemed at high risk, such as those with a severe mental illness, or with chronic heart disease, will be in Cohort 5.
Arrangements are also being made to deliver the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to housebound older people, Prof Butler said. If some patients still could not get this vaccine, they should get the AstraZeneca vaccine.
On Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the Government aim to have administered first doses of a vaccine to 80 per cent of adults by the end of June.
The Government aims to have administered first doses to 40 per cent of people over the age of 18 by the end of April, 64 per cent by the end of May and up to 82 per cent of adults by the end of June.
Just before Mr Martin spoke, it was revealed that AstraZeneca will deliver half of the expected delivery of vaccine doses to the EU in the second quarter of the year.
The Taoiseach said this announcement has been factored into the forecasts in his speech.