By James Ward, PA
Ireland’s vaccination plan will continue to proceed based on age, HSE boss Paul Reid has said.
Changes to the advice on vaccines from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) have led to the plan being redrawn, with the latest version expected early next week.
It has been suggested that the restriction of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs to people over 50 could see younger people moved up the queue.
After a long period for all, it seems that we are turning onto a much better road. We do so with our hospitals & health service in a better place, a rapidly scaling up vaccination supply and strong awareness from everyone of what works & the risks. Let's keep motoring. @HSELive
— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) April 29, 2021
The Republic is to receive over 600,000 doses of the J&J jab, the bulk of which will arrive in late June, by which point the majority of the over-50s cohort should already be vaccinated.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the “primary driver” of the plan will be age, but that they also want to ensure that “no vaccines are left unutilised for any sustained period of time”.
He told a briefing on Thursday: “From our perspective, one of the core principles of the plan we’re designing is that we continue down through the ages, because that’s where the risk factor is.
“We’re doing that and we’re looking at the vaccine supplies as they come along.
“Age will be our primary driver, because that is the government plan, and we’ll continue along with that.
“We certainly don’t want to see vaccines sitting on the shelf.
“It will be primarily driven by age, and that’s the sequencing that we’re driving and by.”
At Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday, Labour’s Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if the latest Niac advice would see people under-50 moved up the queue, to avoid wasting the J&J vaccine.
The Taoiseach replied: “It’s very clear that we’re going to have to get moving and get vaccinating with available vaccines as they come in.”
On Thursday Mr Reid suggested that any deviation from the age-based rollout would have to be approved by Government.
He said they would seek “further guidance” from the Government when the plan is put together over the coming days.
Mr Reid said there would be five core principles underpinning the latest rollout plan, the 27th version of it since it began in January.
He said: “We will continue to implement or design the next phase of the plan based on the government plan on sequencing and prioritisation.
“Secondly, we will build a plan that will continue down through the ages, based on risk factors.
“Thirdly, we will be aiming to ensure that no vaccines are left unutilised for any sustained period of time.
“Fourthly, we’ll build a plan to continue to meet predicted supplies that we have coming to us
“Finally, we’ll continue to maximise all available channels for administration or delivery of the vaccines, based on the quantity supplied that we know we have forecasted to deliver.”
As of Wednesday evening, Ireland had administered 1,484,418 vaccines.
Over a million of those, 1,065,000, were first doses, representing 28.2 per cent of the adult population.
Over 418,000 people have received their second dose, meaning 11.1 per cent of adults is fully vaccinated.
The highest weekly total to date was hit last week, with 183,000 doses administered, as well as the highest daily total of 43,000.
With the Government set to reveal its major reopening plan for the coming months, Mr Reid has urged people to keep their guard up against the virus.
He said: “We are still dealing with a virus that is highly transmissible.
“It’s still at a level that it’s highly transmitting in the community.
“It’s at a level as society begins to open up, it still has to be fully understood about the risks and the dangers that it can cause to people of all ages
“Whatever decisions are announced tonight, it’s really important that people take the virus seriously.
“We all know how quickly this can turn and impact massively on the health system in a very short space of time.”