Stephen Donnelly appeared to make a series of blunders in a Dáil session today, claiming he could not remember what he said on Tuesday and giving out the wrong figures on vaccines.
RISE TD Paul Murphy asked the minister: "Earlier this week you quite unbelievably claimed one of the reasons we could not pursue a zero-Covid strategy was that we don’t know for sure that another Covid variant wouldn’t arrive that would make the vaccine ineffective. What on earth did you mean by that?"
Mr Donnelly said he did not recall that he ever made such a claim: "I have to go back and check exactly that interview or statement ... but as you characterise that right now that doesn't sound right to me."
On Tuesday, Mr Donnelly replied to a query on a zero-Covid policy, with a focus on allowing international travellers back into Ireland if enough people had been vaccinated.
"You've got to keep in mind as well, the new complexity which is variants, so the UK variant we now are confident that the vaccines work on it but it's far more contagious than the Wuhan strain for example," he said.
"What the virologists are telling us is that there will inevitably other strains popping up around the world as well and while we may all and we will achieve the requisite level of vaccination here at some point this year, it doesn't mean it necessarily will work against other strains and that has to be factored into the strategy for the future."
In the same session, Mr Donnelly told the Dáil that 48,000 Pfizer vaccines arrived into the country this week.
However, the HSE say just 24,570 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived in the same time period.
Later, Labour's Alan Kelly said it was "scary" that the minister did not know this.
A row then began in the Dáil when Mr Donnelly then made the decision to share his time with backbencher Cormac Devlin.
There's a problem with Minister for Health overpromising on vaccines. Minister said strategy after March 5, when #level5 restrictions are supposed to end, would be vaccines. But only a small proportion of the population will be vaccinated by then. @RoisinShortall pic.twitter.com/Dfgt0CdcCy— Social Democrats (@SocDems) January 28, 2021
Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall said her understanding was that the slot was for the Minister.
"This whole session is supposed to be about the minister's accountability for his responsibilities," she said.
"Why is he sharing his time with a Government backbencher? It is not acceptable."