By Cate McCurry and James Ward, PA
Ireland is on course to receive almost four million vaccine doses in the next three months, marking a significant boost in supply.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the indications from manufacturers were that Ireland will receive 940,000 doses in April, 1.2 million in May, and 1.7 million or more in June.
The Department of Health published the updated figures, which shows a increase in the number of doses of vaccines due to be delivered in the second quarter.
The department warned, however, that projected delivery schedules will fluctuate, and is dependent on manufacturers meeting commitments.
In a visit to the vaccination centre in Citywest on Wednesday, Mr Martin provided the updated breakdown of the delivery schedule for the coming months.
“You’re looking at close to four million is what’s been indicated by the companies now, that will be supplied to Ireland in the second quarter,” he said.
An online HSE portal for the vaccination programme is set to go live in the week beginning April 19, Mr Martin added.
Wednesday marks the 100th day of Ireland’s vaccination rollout.
The Taoiseach also said that mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving from countries with variants of concern is a “priority for Government”.
He suggested that countries linked to variants of concern will be added to the Government’s hotel quarantine list.
“That will happen, there will be discussions obviously in terms of working through this.
“There was a meeting of senior officials yesterday and progress was made in relation to that,” Mr Martin added.
The Taoiseach denied that the Attorney General had raised issues with the legislation underpinning mandatory hotel quarantine.
He said the concerns were raised because the legislation is grounded “in respect of variants of concern”.
The Fianna Fáil leader added: “The public health advice has to be grounded within the legislative parameters, that’s the only issue.
“It’s not just in relation to countries with variance concerns, recommendations have been made to add countries.
“The other issues have to do with high incidence, and with levels two and a half times the Irish level.”
Mr Martin made the comments during a visit to Citywest, which is used as a mass vaccination centre and a swab and test facility.
About 18 per cent of the eligible population have had their first dose of the vaccine.
Mr Martin said that “key issue” is to protect against variants and the Government will be deciding on whether to add further countries to the list.
“There had been discussions between different departments on activating that.
“It’s not just countries with variants but countries on different levels of criteria laid out by the CMO [chief medical officer],” he added.
“It’s those countries with the variants that is the priority and priority for Government and that will happen.”
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said there are over 11,000 vaccinators trained across the country, of which 5,500 are HSE workers.
“We are well resourced for the stage we are at for the programme, we will be well resourced through the next stage as we meet the volumes and will step it up as we get into June,” Mr Reid added.
“We expect up to 30 vaccination centres operating throughout April. They won’t all be operating together at the same time every day.”
Mr Reid said that vaccines will be administered by GPs, HSE vaccinators and those recruited for the programme.
Head of the vaccine taskforce, Prof Brian MacCraith, said the projected number of doses will be supply driven.
“We will be ramping up through April, May and June. We are ramping up the infrastructure in terms of vaccination centres and vaccinators and the associated workforce,” Prof MacCraith added.
“Towards the end of April and certainly into May, we will be and above the 250,000 vaccines (per week) mark.
“AstraZeneca have given us their assurances that they will meet their targets for this quarter as well.”
Earlier, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said that people travelling from some European Union countries could be forced to isolate in mandatory quarantine hotels.
France, Italy and Germany could be included, with Mr Ryan saying the Government has been responding to the public’s concerns over the high rates of infections in those countries.
It comes as 26 more countries were added to the list last week.
As of 4am on Tuesday, anyone arriving in Ireland from the flagged countries must quarantine for 12 nights at a designated hotel.
Israel, Albania, Palestine, Bahrain, Nigeria, the Philippines, Monaco, Oman and Qatar are among the new additions.
Plans to include the US, France, Italy and Germany were abandoned amid division among ministers. However, the Government now looks set to add some of those countries in the next week.
Mr Ryan said: “Additional countries will be added – for some people that presents a real burden but it’s a burden I think we’ll have to bear because we want to err on the side of caution.
“I would expect that a sort of decision like this would probably be approved by Cabinet next Tuesday.”