By Cate McCurry, PA
The Taoiseach has praised those at the helm of Ireland's Covid vaccine programme, describing it as one of the most successful rollouts in the world.
Micheál Martin made the comments after attending the 44th meeting of the High-Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination on Monday.
The Taoiseach thanked members of the task force for their efforts in the national vaccination programme since it first met on November 10th last year.
Ireland is ranked number one in the European Union in terms of the percentage of its adult population that is fully vaccinated.
As Ireland reopens, we need to keep protecting each other by washing our hands regularly, wearing face coverings and keeping a distance.
We've come so far together. We can do this. https://t.co/lyHKXapzHm #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/UAV3C5rbo7
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) September 27, 2021
Some 91.4 per cent of people over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, while just over 90 per cent of those over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated.
Among those who attended the task force meeting was chairperson of the vaccine programme, Professor Brian MacCraith, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, HSE chief executive Paul Reid, Programme Director Derek Tierney, and Liz Canavan from the Department of the Taoiseach.
The task force has met 44 times since it was established.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Martin said: “Close to 7.3 million doses have been administered in Ireland since the first dose was given to grandmother Annie Lynch on December 26th, a little over nine months ago.
“91.4 per cent of the adult population are now fully vaccinated and these vaccinations have been key to protecting our communities, our health service and to allowing for the safe and steady re-opening of society.
“On behalf of the Government and the Irish people, I want to thank Professor Brian MacCraith and all the members of the task force for their dedication in helping deliver one of the most successful and efficient Covid-19 vaccination programmes in the world.
“The task force, working alongside the HSE’s community and hospital vaccination teams, GPs, pharmacies, doctors, nurses, paramedics, nursing home staff and other healthcare professionals and volunteers, have played a significant role in protecting our elderly relations our friends, the medically vulnerable, our frontline health care workers, and society in general.
“The combined effort saw us through the emergency phase of the pandemic and into this next phase of managing Covid-19.”
Prof MacCraith said the vaccine rollout has exceeded their best expectations.
“But any success that can be associated with it is down principally to two things,” he added.
“First, the remarkable response of the Irish people across all age groups, and, second, the incredible commitment and expertise demonstrated by those responsible for delivering the programme.
“It has been an extraordinary example of human endeavour and commitment to public service.
“It has been a real privilege for the task force to play a key role in supporting the HSE and the Department of Health in delivering this transformative programme.
“I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the task force and all involved in delivering the programme.”
Meanwhile, the Minister for Health said that one of the hallmarks of how Ireland has dealt with Covid has been solidarity.
“It’s been incredible and when I talk to people like Dr Mike Ryan (of the World Health Organisation), he has said that Ireland stands out internationally as a nation that has worked together and continues to work together to keep each other safe, including getting vaccinated,” Mr Donnelly added.
“It’s something that as a nation we should be incredibly proud of because that means people all over Ireland, people have stepped up to say they are going to get themselves protected and protect everyone else.”
However, he criticised those who peddle “dangerous misinformation” about vaccines online.
“There is no place for that in our society and the fact that we have the highest take-up rate of vaccines anywhere in Europe is proof that people in Ireland have absolutely no time for that,” he added.
“Some people are being targeted online with lies and misinformation about Covid and vaccines and I can understand those that are targeted how they might look at that and get concerned.
“Go to the official sources, go to the HSE and the Department of Health and don’t pay attention to the misinformation that is being peddled in some places on social media.”
He appealed to people to ignore the “dangerous nonsense” spread online.