As healthcare workers at Cork University Hospital (CUH) are set to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from today, a 79-year-old Dublin woman is to become the first person in the country to take the jab.
The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine begins today at four hospitals around the country after 10,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived in Ireland on St Stephen's Day. The hospitals include Beaumont and St James's hospitals in Dublin, Cork University Hospital, and University Hospital Galway.
The first vaccinations are due to take place around 1.30pm in St James's Hospital where the grandmother of 10 will be administered the vaccine.
She is said to feel “privileged” to be receiving the vaccine, according to Chair of the Covid Vaccine Task Force Professor Brian MacCraith.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Professor MacCraith said that others receiving the vaccine today include an ICU nurse, a junior doctor, a Covid ward nurse and an allied health professional.
The vaccination programme is beginning in hospital settings before the vaccine is rolled out to over 580 nursing homes from Monday, January 4.
Professor MacCraith believes it is "very possible we will complete all vaccinations of nursing homes by February” and said that anyone who wants the vaccine will, in a best case scenario, receive it by August.
In relation to the rollout, he said that because the vaccines are dual-dose vaccines, 50% will be held back in the initial weeks until there is more certainty about regularity of supply but said “we will never hold back vaccines in storage, we will use vaccines as soon as we have availability.”
He said that another supply of vaccines is expected to arrive today, bringing the total from 10,000 to over 40,000 with the expectation of receiving just over 40,000 vaccines doses per week for the weeks of January into February.
Professor MacCraith also told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that there are "very strong indications" in the UK that the Astrazeneca/Oxford University vaccine may receive approval in the coming days.
The rollout of the vaccine comes as cases of Covid-19 across the country continue to rise.
765 cases were reported nationally on Monday, 63 of which were in Cork.
Cork’s 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 population 172.2 and a total of 935 cases have been recorded in Cork in the 14 days up to December 27.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan warned that there has been a “steep rise in the positivity rates in community testing with a seven day average of over 9.2% up from 5.2% on December 18”.
“This indicates that the virus is increasing its foothold out in our communities. This is just one more reason why we are strongly advising everyone to stay safely at home and avoid transmitting or catching this virus, as it continues to circulate widely,” he said.