Explained: Everything we now know about your Covid vaccination

The week has brought major developments for Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout
Explained: Everything we now know about your Covid vaccination

Sarah Mooney

It has been a week of significant developments for Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout — and it’s only Wednesday.

Here is everything we now know about how the rollout will go and when you can expect your vaccine.

What changes were made to the rollout this week?

On Tuesday, the Cabinet signed off on a number of recommendations from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).

This is who the changes will affect:

  • Over-50s: Both the Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines will be administered to people aged 50 and over.
  • Under-50s with Covid infection: Those under the age of 50 who have had a laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 infection in the previous six months and are not immunocompromised will be considered “fully vaccinated” after a single dose.
  • Over-50s or immunocompromised with Covid infection: Those aged 50 and older, along with those under the age of 50 who are immunocompromised, will continue to receive a full vaccine schedule of two doses regardless of previous infection.
  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women between 14 and 36 weeks’ gestation be offered a mRNA vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna.

Are any further changes expected?

It has been suggested that under-50s could move up the vaccine queue as a result of the new changes.

Administering the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to over-50s only presents a logistical problem, because the vast majority of J&J jabs are due at the end of June — by which point the 50 to 59 age cohort should already be vaccinated.

One solution is that younger people are vaccinated at an earlier stage with other available jabs, such as Pfizer.

The HSE is currently redrawing its vaccination programme and will make adjustments based on the new Niac advice in the coming days, the Taoiseach has said.

So now we know the plan — what stage is the vaccine rollout at?

More than one million people have now received their first dose of a vaccine, with around 1.4 million doses administered overall.

The rollout is “substantially advanced” in frontline healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff, and those over the age of 70.

Over the past week, the online registration process opened for those aged between 60 and 64, with those aged 65 to 69 now beginning to receive their first doses after registering two weeks ago.

The rollout is also continuing for those deemed at “very high-risk” of severe Covid-19.

What about those under the age of 60?

The Government has not given specific dates for when each age cohort can expect to be vaccinated.

However, the Taoiseach and Health Minister have both insisted that Ireland is still on track to offer a first Covid-19 vaccine dose to over 80 per cent of the population by the end of June.

As a person in his forties, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he expects to be vaccinated in June.

This vaccine calculator provides a conservative estimate of when a person will receive their vaccine, based on the State’s current weekly vaccination rate. Last week saw more than 180,000 doses administered, but this rate is expected to further ramp up in the coming months and can be adjusted in the calculator.

What do I have to do to make sure I’m vaccinated?

If you are aged 60 to 69, you can now register to get a Covid-19 vaccine online here.

If you cannot register online, you can call the HSE's Covid-19 helpline to register by phone on 01 240 8787.

You may be vaccinated at a GP surgery or a vaccination centre — so your main task is getting yourself there after registration.

If you cannot leave home for medical reasons, talk to your GP. They can refer you for home vaccination.

What will happen at my vaccine appointment?

Vaccination is by appointment only. Your appointment text or letter will include the name and address of the vaccination centre you should go to.

You must bring photo ID to your appointment, and make sure to arrive on time. Wear something that will make it easy for you to get the vaccine in your upper arm, and a face covering.

Your appointment will take around 30 minutes, including 15 minutes to get registered and vaccinated, and 15 minutes of observation after the vaccine to make sure that you feel well before you leave.

More information is available from the HSE here.

Can I choose what vaccine I receive?

The type of vaccine offered to you will be based on supply, and you do not get to choose.

All those in the 60 to 69 cohort will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the HSE.

Those aged 50 to 59 are likely to receive either the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which are both currently restricted in Ireland to use in those aged 50 or older.

If you are aged 49 or younger, the only Covid-19 vaccines currently recommended for use in your cohort are the mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

However, Johnson & Johnson may be used for some people under the age of 50 where no other vaccines are available, and some people under the age of 50 and deemed at “very high-risk” of severe Covid-19 have already received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

What about my second dose?

Niac also made recommendations on the length of time between doses of various vaccines, which were approved by the Government on Tuesday as follows:

  • Pfizer/Moderna doses: There will be no change in the four-week gap between doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
  • AstraZeneca doses over-50s: Those aged 50 or older who have already received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and those under 50 years at very high or high risk of severe Covid disease, will receive their second dose 12 weeks after their first.
  • AstraZeneca doses under-50s: Those under 50 years of age who do not have a very high or high risk of severe Covid disease should have their second AstraZeneca dose 16 weeks after the first dose, to allow for assessment of emerging evidence regarding the risk and benefits of the second dose of this vaccine.

And remember — those under the age of 50 who have had a laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 infection in the previous six months and are not immunocompromised will be considered “fully vaccinated” after a single dose of an mRNA vaccine.

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