The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly has today announced the allocation strategy for Covid-19 vaccines, following sign-off from Cabinet.
While Ireland has secured a large number of doses of candidate vaccines, the Minister said the initial availability will be limited if authorised for use, therefore a prioritisation strategy had to be developed.
The new strategy prioritises those over the age of 65 living in long-term care facilities, frontline healthcare workers who are in direct patient contact and those aged 70 and over.
In the latter group, those aged 85 and older will be vaccinated first, followed by those aged 80-84, 75-79 and then 70-74.
After that group, healthcare workers who do not have direct patient contact will be prioritised. They are followed by those in the 65-69 years age group.
These groups are followed by key workers, those aged 18-64 years with medical conditions which put them at high risk of severe disease, and residents of long-term care facilities aged 18-64.
Next will be people 18-64 years living working in crowded accommodation where self-isolation and social distancing is difficult to maintain.
This group will be followed by key workers in essential jobs who cannot avoid a high risk of exposure to Covid-19 including workers in the food supply system, public and commercial transport and other vital services.
Those who are essential to education and who face disease exposure -primary and second level school staff, special needs assistants, childcare workers, maintenance workers, school bus drivers etc will follow.
The next groups are those aged 55-64 years, followed by those in occupations important to the functioning of society, such as third-level institutions, entertainment and goods-producing industries.
Those aged 18-54 years who did not have access to the vaccine in prior phases are next in the list.
The final group is children, adolescents up to 18 years and pregnant women.
Announcing the details, the Minister said: “Recent news from vaccine developers are a beacon of hope after a very difficult year. Vaccination is a hugely effective intervention for saving lives and promoting good health. Of course, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is our absolute priority and any Covid-19 vaccine administered in Ireland will have to be authorised by the European Medicines Agency. While we await news on whether these vaccines comply with all of the EMA’s requirements of quality, safety and efficacy, the Government has been working ahead on plans for the roll-out of vaccines."
The Minister added:“A key part of the roll-out will be ensuring that those most vulnerable to Covid-19 receive vaccinations first. Given the country’s experience with Covid-19 to date and the risks that vulnerable people and those in frontline roles in the health and social care services continue to face, it is only right that they are prioritised in the allocation of vaccines. The government has followed the advice from our leading medical experts.”
The Minister also announced that the vaccine programme will be available free of charge to everyone in Ireland.
Mr Donnelly said that the continued adherence to public health measures is critical to keeping the disease at bay.
“While some may be tempted to let their guards down now that there are vaccines on the horizon, it is crucially important to continue to follow the public health guidance. Covid-19 is still a deadly disease. Through so much hard work and sacrifice, we now have the lowest 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 in the EU. We are in a good position, and we want to keep it like that. Please remember that every single contact counts.”