The Taoiseach has rejected the idea that Ireland should appoint a minister with sole responsibility for rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine.
Labour leader Alan Kelly suggested in the Dáil that one person be given responsibility for the rollout of the vaccine, which is planned for the first half of 2021.
The vaccine taskforce, which is chaired by Brian MacCraith of Dublin City University, met for the second time on Monday and took on additional expertise in the areas of public health, supply chain logistics, cold chain logistics, and programme management. However, Mr Kelly said "this is not something the Government can get wrong".
Moncef Slaoui, US govt advisor on vaccines says he expects vaccine approval Dec 10th with vaccination starting Dec 11th. Eric Topol @EricTopol has put together this timeline-‘will go down in history as one of science and medicine’s greatest achievements’ pic.twitter.com/dsiZe6n61t— Luke O'Neill (@laoneill111) November 29, 2020
"I appreciate that the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, will be very busy with other things, but we need one person who will be at Cabinet.
"That person should be responsible for procurement, logistics, roll-out and everything else."
In response, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the "Government is absolutely and wholly committed" to an immunisation programme, but said the current system would be capable of rolling out the vaccine.
"I established the task force for a reason, namely, to bring a varied range of disciplines, both public sector and private sector, to the table to deal with the various work streams that will be required to deliver the vaccine. There is a work stream currently operating in regard to information technology, for example, because IT will be key to this in terms of recording and so on. There is also the issue of manpower and the administration of the vaccine.
"The members of the task force are well aware that it was established by the Taoiseach, will have to report back to the Taoiseach and we want to keep it at that level in terms of making sure it gets prioritisation across Government and across the different agencies. The Department of the HSE will play a key role in the health dimension of this but will draw upon expertise in other departments and from the private sector."
The comments come as the Cabinet agreed to enter an advanced purchase order for 875,000 doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. The EU is expecting to buy about 80 million doses, of which Ireland will receive a little more than 1%.
#Covid19 - @EU_Commission approves contract with @moderna_tx for the initial purchase of 80 million doses of their vaccine plus option to request up to a further 80 million doses to be supplied once vaccine is proven to be safe and effective.— EU Commission in Ireland (@eurireland) November 25, 2020
That would give the country access to more than 10 million doses of vaccine, but some of those will be a double dose.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he expects vaccines to be rolled out here in the new year, with healthcare workers and those with vulnerable conditions expected to be treated first.
However, infectious diseases professor Jack Lambert said it could a year before a vaccine is fully rolled out.
He told Newstalk: "Even with lockdown, which wasn't being enforced to be perfectly honest for the last six weeks, the virus didn't suppress to the level that was expected.
"A vaccine is not going to come in January or February."