Donnelly: target is to have 700,000 vaccinated by end of March

However, Mr Donnelly called the figures "highly provisional" and said that they hinge on the availability of vaccines.
Donnelly: target is to have 700,000 vaccinated by end of March

The Health Minister said the number was built on the assumption that the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine would be approved on January 29.

The Government plans to have 700,000 people vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of March, the Health Minister has told the Dáil.

Stephen Donnelly told TDs that the updated figures would see those at most risk of the virus fully vaccinated by the summer. 

This would mean that those in long-term residential care, both staff and residents, all frontline healthcare workers and those over 70 would be vaccinated. A further 1.5 million would be vaccinated in the second quarter of the year.

However, Mr Donnelly called the figures "highly provisional" and said that they hinge on the availability of vaccines.

"We are planning on receiving enough vaccines to be able to vaccinate 700,000 people by the end of March. Critically, this will vaccinate the top three groups on the prioritisation list, that is, those in long-term residential care, namely, staff and residents, frontline healthcare workers and our population of people over 70 years of age.

"We are further planning to be able to vaccinate more than 1.5 million people in quarter two and more than that again in quarter three. 

At these levels, people most at risk of Covid-19 will be fully vaccinated by the summer. 

"I want to stress, however, I am providing this information to colleagues in an effort to give some sense of where we are moving and at what speed but these numbers are highly provisional."

The minister said that this number represented people receiving both doses of the vaccine for the most part, but for those who receive their first dose in the first three weeks of March, it would spill into April. 

He said the number was built on the assumption that the Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccine would be approved on January 29. He said that Ireland's third tranche of Pfizer vaccines would arrive in quarter two of the year.

Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo Marc MacSharry criticised the Government's preparation for the vaccination rollout. He said the responsibility did not lie with healthcare workers, but rather the Government.

“We didn’t prepare, that is where we are. The vaccine wasn't sprung on us, but we weren't ready."

Sinn Féin's David Cullinane said the vaccine programme needs to be transparent and clear.

Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill asked that a "spreadsheet or visible representation" of the vaccine rollout be made available. 

Mr Donnelly said that there is "nothing he would like to do more" than give certainty on when different people will be vaccinated. However, he said this is not possible to answer accurately due to a number of factors.

During the debate, Sinn Féin's TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould drew attention to what he called the rise in "harmful alcohol abuse" during the pandemic.

He said 2.4% of the country is affected, but there is "no specific funding" for treatment plans.

"Despite calls to the Justice Minister, dial-a-drink services still operate seven days a week, delivering alcohol to vulnerable people. Alcohol harms lives, we've seen it harm our families and communities and we need action now."

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