Consideration is being given to running Covid-19 mass vaccination centres on a 24-hour basis.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) asked the health service to consider the move, as a possible measure to scale up the rollout of the programme.
In response, the HSE said that the only restrictions on the rollout are vaccine supply and people not presenting for vaccination. It said it would extend the rollout as needed to match deliveries.
It’s time to do the blindingly obvious, which is vaccinate everybody at the fastest pace
The latest figures show some 1.6 million vaccines have been administered in Ireland, including 1.1 million first doses, as vaccine registration is set to continue for the over-50 cohort over the coming days.
Consultant pathologist at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital, Professor Bill Tormey, has urged the Government to “just get everybody vaccinated”.
“I think that what we should do now is just get everybody vaccinated over the age of about 18, and I think it’s time to do the blindingly obvious, which is vaccinate everybody at the fastest pace you possibly can,” he told Newstalk radio.
“[This] will mean that the HSE will have to remove some of the restrictive practices on vaccinations and come to some arrangement with the pharmacists and everybody who gives out the vaccine.”
Prof Tormey said rising Covid infection rates were “absolutely predictable”.
The five-day moving average of new infections has increased by eight per cent in the past week, from 437 last Tuesday to a current 470.
With 383 new cases of the virus reported yesterday, the median age of those infected was 28.
“Anybody who bothers to drive around any open space that the younger generation congregate in could see crowds hanging around all last week, and when the weather was good the week before, there were even bigger crowds hanging around, so there would have been a lot of crowd transmission,” Prof Tormey said.
Responding to the possibility of 24-hour vaccinations on Wednesday morning, the general secretary of the Irish Pharmaceutical Union said there would be “no need” for the move if pharmacies could provide vaccinations.
Darragh O’Loughlin told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that Covid vaccines needed to be more accessible and 50 per cent of people lived within one kilometre of a pharmacy, making them very local.
On the same programme GP Dr Illona Duffy said there was not a demand for 24-hour centres, while Dr Graham Fry, medical director of the Tropical Medical Bureau, called for the existing vaccination centres to remain open until 10pm or midnight.
Dr Fry also suggested that drive-through vaccination centres, as operated elsewhere, could be a simpler way to offer vaccinations as there would be no need for people to queue outside a GP surgery “in horrible weather.”
It comes as there were 38 people with Covid-19 in intensive care last night — the first time the figure has fallen below 40 this year. Across public hospitals, there were 132 patients with the virus.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is to consult the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on the latest revisions proposed for the State’s vaccine programme.
The HSE has outlined a plan that will stick to the current age-based approach, but offer vaccines to younger people currently generally recommended only for the over-50s.
As of May 2nd, some 31 per cent of the population had been administered with at least one vaccine dose and 12 per cent of adults are now fully vaccinated.
Ireland is set to receive at least 4.8 million vaccines each year in 2022 and 2023 under a new deal struck between Pfizer and the EU.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers who refuse to take a Covid-19 vaccine may face redeployment, under new proposals being examined by the HSE.