Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Julien Behal Photography via RollingNews.ie.
By Anthony Neeson
A delay in the supply of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine is causing concern within the Irish government.
A reduced production at the manufacturing site is causing “lower than originally anticipated” supplies.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the delay was impacting on the government’s plans to vaccinate the over-70s.
“It certainly does have the potential to impact on the wider vaccination program,” he told RTÉ. “And given that once we have the frontline health care workers, residents and nursing homes done and staff, the next stage was the over-70s and a subset of that would have been the over-85s.
“It will disrupt our plans if it emerges as severe as they are suggesting. I expect robust engagement with AstraZeneca in the coming days.”
Minster for Health, Stephen Donnelly, tweeted: “The news from AstraZeneca, which has advised the EU of a reduction in vaccine supply in Feb and March, it a real setback. The numbers are still tentative and AstraZeneca is due to provide more exact figures at a meeting early next week. Will provide an update as soon as possible.”
With Ireland and Europe in the midst of the third wave of the virus and hospitals at capacity, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has warned the pharmaceutical company that it must meet its contractual obligations.
After speaking with AstraZeneca’s Chief Executive Pascal Soriot by phone on Monday, a commission spokesperson said: “She made it clear she expects AstraZeneca to deliver on the contractual arrangements foreseen in the advanced purchasing agreement.
“She reminded Mr. Soriot that the EU has invested significant amounts in the company upfront precisely to ensure production is ramped up even before the conditional market authorization is delivered by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
“Of course, production issues can appear with a complex vaccine but we expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly.”
Meanwhile, as there are signs that the number of Covid cases is falling, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation says that infections in hospital are “out of control." INMO said that nearly 2,000 healthcare workers have caught Coronavirus over two weeks.