The Government is in talks to secure early delivery of the Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said.
Though the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has not yet been granted approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), it is expected to be authorised for use in Europe by the end of the month.
However, the minister says that the Government has requested early deliveries of the vaccine, meaning it would be ready for rollout here as soon as the EMA signs of on it.
Approval of the vaccine is expected to significantly ramp up Ireland’s vaccination programme.
While both the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have already been cleared for use here, they both need to be stored at sub-zero temperatures, and are therefore more challenging to transport and administer.
The Oxford AstraZeneca jab, however, needs only to be refrigerated, making it much easier to store and transport.
Ireland is expected to receive over three million doses of the vaccine.
Speaking onthis morning, Mr Donnelly confirmed that discussions are under way on possible early deliveries of the vaccine, allowing them to be administered immediately, rather than having the country wait several days after the EMA approval.
The minister admitted that there were some regulatory hurdles to be overcome, but noted how the EMA brought forward approval of the Pfizer vaccine by one week late last year.
“What I would like to see if possible is to get the AstraZeneca vaccine into Ireland and ideally into all the GP surgeries, into all the pharmacies so that the moment the EMA and EU Commission authorise it, I then have to sign a statutory instrument that authorises it for use in Ireland and we get vaccinating straight away," he said.
Mr Donnelly said it was his goal to ensure “not a single day is wasted” when it came to the AstraZeneca rollout here.
The Minister also said the Government hopes to have vaccinated 140,000 people by next Sunday — including all nursing home residents and staff in the country.
As of last Thursday, 77,000 doses of the PfizerBionTech have been administered in Ireland.