Irish vaccine rollout in January

Taoiseach Micheál Martin


By Anthony Neeson

Rollout of the Pfizer-BioBTech Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland will start in January.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said vaccinations will begin once approval is given by the European Medicines Agency, a decision from which is expected on December 29.

However, with Covid restrictions being further relaxed on December 18, the taoiseach has also warned that “we can not let our guard down” in the fight against the virus.

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Speaking on RTÉ, the taoiseach said once the vaccine is approved by the EMA Ireland would be ready to move on vaccinations.

“We had a presentation at the EU Council meeting from President Von der Leyen in terms of the Pfizer-BioBTech, the latest it will be is the 29, and then Moderna the next vaccine on the 12th."

The taoiseach said first in line to receive the vaccine will be nursing home residents and health care staff.

“The Pfizer-BioBTech vaccine is a volatile enough vaccine and has to be handled with care...public health doctors and public health teams will be involved. Doctors and pharmacies will be involved latterly.”

The taoiseach said that in January and February there will be limited numbers of vaccines in Ireland.

“We will have enough for the areas of priority,” he stressed.

“The bigger volumes will start coming in March and April and May as other vaccines come on stream and as the manufacturing of vaccines ramp up across the world.

“There’s a timeframe to this. People need to be aware of this and this is not just in Ireland but it is everywhere. I think your optimal period is moving towards the May-June period and then will be completely open after that. So there will be a staged time line approach depending on availability of the vaccine, manufacturing of the vaccine, as they come into the country.”

The taoiseach said that the vaccine is a “complementary tool” to the public health measures that are currently being used to restrict the growth of the virus.

“People need to be aware of that because we are on the cusp of the vaccine arriving doesn’t mean that we can let down our guard. It will add significantly to our armory putting the pressure on this virus. In terms of the Pfizer-BioBTech, it is effective in terms of reducing illness and impact of the virus on people.”

Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, has also warned the public about unnecessary contact in the weeks ahead after a rise in cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, December 13 with 429 cases reported, along with one death in the Republic of Ireland.

“Four hundred and twenty-nine is a large number of cases by the standard of recent weeks and the five day moving average has now increased about three hundred per day," said Dr. Holohan.

“Our efforts in Level 5 in recent weeks brought the 14-day incidence rate down to 78 per 100,000 population, put us in a position of having the lowest disease incidence in Europe, and ultimately protected many people and saved many lives.

“Take today’s figures as a sign that we all must now reduce our social contacts, limit our interactions with those outside our households, weigh the risks of what socializing we are planning over the next two weeks, so that we can have as safe a Christmas as possible.”