The AstraZeneca vaccine to protect against Covid-19 will arrive in the Republic no sooner than mid-February, the Taoiseach has said.
The timeline assumes that the vaccine is approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) at the end of January.
Following the vaccine’s approval, Micheál Martin said it will take a further number of weeks for deliveries to reach the Republic.
“We have a much more comprehensive and detailed plan in terms of ramping up then the volume for the next phase (of a vaccine rollout),” he said.
“Particularly after the authorisation, hoping that’ll go well, of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which should be on the 29th from the European Medicines Agency, and then for delivery in their timeline for mid-February.”
It comes as the European Commission said that Covid-19 vaccines cannot be delivered before they get regulatory approval, denting Ireland’s hopes of securing early supplies of the AstraZeneca shot.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said last weekend that discussions were underway on securing early deliveries of the vaccine to enable it to be rolled out immediately following approval.
In response to queries from The Irish Times, a European Commission spokesman said: “Vaccines cannot be delivered before EMA [European Medicines Agency] delivers its recommendation for authorisation and the commission then grants marketing authorisation. This is a requirement as per the Advance Purchase Agreement.”
The revelation casts doubt on the Government’s vaccine rollout timeline, as the Cabinet approved a €91 million scheme to allow GPs and pharmacists administer the vaccine to some 1.5 million people.
The plan seeks to ramp up Covid-19 vaccinations in the Republic, with vaccines distributed in GP surgeries, mass vaccination centres and other venues such as sports and church halls as the AstraZeneca shot can be more easily stored than other vaccines requiring ultra-cold storage.