Ireland’s target remains to vaccinate every adult in the country by September, despite disruptions to the supply chain, the Seanad has heard.
Junior Minister Anne Rabbitte, speaking on behalf of the Health Minister, said the Government has “significant concerns” that one vaccine producer, AstraZeneca, will be unable to meet its initial delivery commitments.
This has led to some “adjustments” to the Government’s target of vaccinating 700,000 people by the end of March, Minister Rabbitte said.
The goal of vaccinating all adults by September remains the Government’s target, but is contingent on steady flow of vaccines.
Minister Rabbitte said: “The Minister for Health previously stated that he expected all adult residents to be vaccinated by September.
“That remains our target.
“However, as Minister Donnelly stressed, it is contingent on existing commitments on the approval, supply and delivery of vaccines.”
The AstraZeneca vaccine is crucial to the Government’s planned vaccine delivery schedule.
It is scheduled for approval by the European Medicines Agency on Friday, but the company recently announced it will initially supply considerably fewer doses than agreed with the EU.
The announcement has caused outrage in the EU, which pre-financed the production and delivery of the vaccine.
The new delivery schedule is “not acceptable”, European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has warned the company.
On Tuesday, Minister Rabbitte also criticised the company over the delays.
She said: “Of significant concern is the recent indication that AstraZeneca will not be available to meet its initial delivery commitments.
“It is estimated that deliveries in February will be at the low range of what was anticipated, and there will be further significant impact in March.
“The Department of Health is monitoring this change of situation, and is continually engaging with the Commission and the company.
“The Minister is very concerned that this supply issue was only communicated to the member states just a week before the scheduled authorisation was to be given for the vaccine.”
Ms Rabbitte also warned that the arrival of the vaccines and the prospect of a return to normality “gives rise to public expectation that cannot be met in the short term”.
The EU had expected to receive 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the first quarter of the year.
It is now feared it will receive only half that amount.
Brussels has threatened to block exports of Covid-19 vaccines outside of the bloc as a result of the ongoing row.
As of Sunday, the HSE has administered 143,000 vaccine doses in Ireland.
Two doses delivered three or four weeks apart are required for the vaccines currently in use in Ireland, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
The HSE began administration of the second doses of the vaccine last week.