Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has described Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s comments on the numbers who could be vaccinated by June as “very ambitious”.
Mr Varadkar told colleagues on Tuesday evening that everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine appointment could be offered one by the end of June.
Speaking on Newstalk, Mr Donnelly said he hoped the Government could “deliver on that”.
If the vaccines that have been ordered are delivered on time then by June four out of every five people who were entitled to the vaccine will have been vaccinated. The latest analysis showed that everyone could be vaccinated by September, he said.
When asked about vaccine hesitancy, Mr Donnelly said that the most recent research indicated that 70 per cent of people would “definitely” take the vaccine and 16 per cent “probably would” – an acceptance level of 86 per cent, which, by international standards, was “very strong”.
A recent survey conducted by Eurofound found that the vast majority of adults in the Republic have expressed a willingness to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
Mr Donnelly said he anticipated “a considered view” from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) shortly on what levels of protection will be offered after vaccination from the various types to qualify for the European travel certificate. This could be in place by late June or July, he said.
Senior officials also expect that advice from Niac, due this week, will clear the way for the use of the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines for people under 50.
Mr Donnelly paid tribute to all members of the Oireachtas for their response to the pandemic. “Across the Dáil there has been really strong support,” he told Newstalk.
Although there were some who were “hedging their bets” he said, he appreciated the support of colleagues from across the political spectrum.
When asked why some people in Wicklow had to go to the Aviva for their vaccine rather than the vaccination centre in Greystones, Mr Donnelly said that he had been disappointed that the planned centre in the Arklow Bay hotel had not gone ahead.
The ambition was to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, safety had to come first, he said. If everyone was to get vaccinated in the place closest to them, it would take longer. When he had asked people if they wanted to get vaccinated sooner they had said they were prepared to travel.
On the issue of the difference across maternity units to partners attending appointments and labour wards, Mr Donnelly said that 14 of the 19 maternity units in the country were complying with the instruction that partners should be allowed to attend.
There were five units where, for local reasons, it could not be allowed – Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford, St Luke’s Kilkenny and Letterkenny.
Mr Donnelly also defended the Government’s treatment of the aviation sector, saying the response had been the same as any Government during a global pandemic. What had happened to the sector was not the fault of Ireland, the World Health Organisation or the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet). The enemy was the virus, he said.
The Minister also defended his position on antigen testing and denied that he was supporting the sale of them, but dismissing their efficacy. “I’m not saying they are useless,” he said.
However, he pointed out that while there was a danger that people with a negative result would think they were not infectious, if the test results were positive then antigen testing could prevent super spreader events.