Updated at 12:03
The Covid-19 vaccine rollout could be “speeded up” by allowing pharmacies administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to healthcare workers, the pharmacists’ group has said.
As The Irish Times reports, The Irish Pharmacy Union has called for a change to the sequencing of the vaccine rollout to the top priority groups and for pharmacies to give AstraZeneca vaccines to health workers after it was advised that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines be given to people over 70 where possible.
It comes as the State’s plan outlining the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines is being significantly reworked, after the AstraZeneca jab was ruled out for those aged over 70.
The Irish Times reports that those aged between 70 and 80 years old may face delays of two to three weeks for their vaccination under the changes.
Three lower priority groups are also likely to be brought forward for an earlier vaccination than previously anticipated, according to one senior source.
From next week onwards, these groups could include healthcare workers who are not in direct contact with patients, people between the age of 65 and 69 and key workers.
The revision of the rollout plan comes after Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed that people aged over 70 will be offered the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, following recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.
It is understood that there will no changes to the vaccine schedule for those aged over 80, who were already due to receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
The changes are being drawn up by health officials after chief medical officer Tony Holohan advised that those aged over 70 should be given the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, rather than the recently approved AstraZeneca shot.
In a letter, Dr Holohan also advised that those over 65 living and working in long-term residential care should also be offered the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, due to the increased risk in these settings.
Administering the jabs from Pfizer and Moderna has been seen as a challenge in traditional GP settings, due to the vaccines — which are based on mRNA technology — requiring ultra-cold storage.
According to a HSE source, officials will have to “get creative” in reworking the vaccine rollout plan.
Several options are under consideration, including bringing GPs together at pop-up vaccine centres to administer the mRNA vaccines to those over 70.
Officials have said they are reassured by recent announcements regarding supplies by the manufacturers of the three authorised vaccines. Further detail on deliveries and when doses will be administered to each priority group is expected next week.
Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout is currently the fastest in Europe, with Ireland and Denmark having administered doses to 4.1 per cent of their populations.