Ireland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is likely to miss its target of inoculating 700,000 people by the end of March, the Dáil has heard.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the “indicative target” was heavily caveated and dependant on vaccine supplies from AstraZeneca.
Mr Donnelly said it is “very frustrating” that AstraZeneca may not be delivering the full amount anticipated by Government.
As part of the deal with the pharmaceuticals giant, Ireland was due to receive 600,000 coronavirus vaccines in the coming weeks.
However, Mr Donnelly said negotiations are under way to establish what the new supply chain will include.
The interruption to supply will likely affect the domestic vaccine rollout and the Government’s targets for the months ahead.
Mr Donnelly said that 3% of the population has been vaccinated by Sunday past, including 66,000 in nursing homes and 77,000 healthcare workers.
He said that second doses of the vaccine are being administered this week.
However, Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane accused the Health Minister of failing to provide revised timeframes or targets for Ireland’s vaccination programme.
“Minister, I have to say that your opening statement here today falls far short of what was needed,” he added.
“It pains me to say this, it is very difficult to retain confidence in the rollout of the vaccine programme when we are not getting the information that we should be getting from the Minister for Health.
“You had 10 minutes to set a very clear strategy of providing clarity and certainty to people, and you haven’t done so.
“I have to say to you minister that this is not a time for spoofing.
“This is a time for absolute clarity and certainty, and to give assurances and reassurances to the public in relation to the rollout of the vaccine.
“We need strong leadership on this issue.”
Mr Donnelly told the Dáil: “Right now they (AstraZeneca) are not committing to that 600,000 – we’re in negotiations to see what we can get.
“So obviously, the 700,000 is contingent on the supply that comes in and that that is still under negotiation.”
Mr Donnelly told Labour lead Alan Kelly that approximately 40,000 vaccines arrived in Ireland this week.
Mr Kelly was critical of the the Government’s failure to provide a daily break down of the amount of frontline healthcare workers who have been vaccinated.
Mr Kelly added: “What sort of an organisation would not know who they vaccinate?
“That information has to be provided, otherwise we have bigger problems.
“It doesn’t make any sense that we don’t know in UHL (University Hospital Limerick) or at the Coombe (hospital), or any other hospital in this country how many Covid-facing frontline workers have been vaccinated.
“It’s really worrying that you cannot provide those statistics.”
Mr Donnelly also clarified that he expects all adult residents to be offered a vaccine by September based on current delivery schedules, but warned it is conditional on the supply chain and vaccines being authorised.
Meanwhile, head of the HSE Paul Reid said there are “some early sign” of minor relief in Covid-19 hospital numbers.
He tweeted: “However our health system remains under relentless strain.
“Many very sick and vulnerable people will need care for some time.
“Our ICUs remain too close to a tipping point.
“Please continue to hold our guard.”