Moderna vaccine ‘expected in Ireland this week’

ireland
Moderna vaccine, © PA Media
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By Michael McHugh, PA

Supplies of the Moderna vaccine are expected in Ireland this week, an expert leading the State programme said.

The Government has pre-ordered hundreds of thousands of doses.

The European Commission authorised the jab earlier this month.

The Republic is battling a surge in the number of admissions with Covid-19 to hospital but the country has “turned a corner” in the number of new infections, those modelling disease spread said.

Professor Karina Butler, chairwoman of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, added that the authorisation process for another vaccine made by AstraZeneca had commenced and data had been submitted to European regulators.

“They anticipate that they will have a decision by the end of the month,” she said.

“Then AstraZeneca are primed to have very significant quantities of vaccine available to us at that time. That will allow acceleration for the rollout.”

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She said everything is being done to maximise the vaccine given and to ensure there is no wastage. That includes extracting an extra dose from a vial.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said Ireland had pre-ordered 875,000 shots of the Moderna vaccine.

Moderna is an American biotechnology company.

It takes two injections over several weeks to reach maximum effectiveness. It requires storage only at minus 20C rather than around minus 80C for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. That makes it easier to transport and administer.

AstraZeneca’s version can be stored at normal fridge temperature.

Professor Butler said immunity could last from six to 18 months.

Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the situation in hospitals continued to deteriorate.

He added: “While we are seeing the first glimmer of hope in respect of our daily case figures and positivity rates, the situation in hospitals and ICUs around the country continues to worsen day on day.

“We know that hospitalisations occur some weeks after a confirmed case is notified, and mortality after that again.

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“That means we are unfortunately set for a period of time where the situation in our hospitals gets worse before it gets better.”

Eight more people have died with Covid-19. Another 4,929 cases were confirmed. A total of 146 people are in intensive care in hospital.

Professor Philip Nolan is modelling progress of the disease for the State. He said Ireland was stabilising at around 6,000 cases per day.

His modelling indicated numbers in hospital will peak at between 2,200 and 2,500 in 10-14 days. Between 200 and 400 people could be in intensive care units.

He said the figures were “unprecedented” but it looked like they were beginning to turn a corner and the positivity rate of tests had fallen in recent days.

He added: “We are beginning to see early signs of improvement in the situation but that improvement is from such a high level of disease that our health services remain very much under strain and under threat and will be so for a number of weeks.”

He said the situation was stabilising and case numbers would begin to decline.

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