300,000 fewer than expected Covid-19 vaccinations in coming months

300,000 fewer than expected Covid-19 vaccinations in coming months

A shortfall in the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines will see Ireland's projected vaccination numbers tumble by 300,000 in the coming months. File Picture.

Up to 150,000 fewer people will be vaccinated by the end of March due to supply issues with AstraZeneca, the Oireachtas Health Committee has been told.

Ireland will now only get 1.1m AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which will cover 550,000 people, chair of the vaccine taskforce professor Brian MacCraith has confirmed.

It had been expected that Ireland would have taken delivery of 1.4m vaccines, to cover 700,000 people as two doses are needed, by the end of March.

Prof. MacCraith said he expects a 50% reduction in the amount of the so-called 'game changer' AstraZenca vaccine in the next two months.

He said:

The totality for quarter one now is 286,000, when we have been planning on expecting 600,000. 

"So that gives you that approximate 50% reduction," he said when asked about reduced delivery of AstraZeneca.

Separately, the HSE's implementation lead for the vaccination plan and workforce, David Walsh, could not say how many care home staff and residents have yet to be vaccinated.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had promised that all those working and living in care homes would be vaccinated by last Sunday.

Mr Walsh told the Committee that there are 117 nursing homes where there are "substantial numbers" of people who have not been vaccinated.

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane warned that officials and politicians should not be "overpromising" when it comes to the delivery of vaccines.

Pressed on the AstraZeneca vaccine, Prof. MacCraith said the total expected delivery for AstraZeneca in February is 190,000 doses.

"That will be split over three deliveries and we don't have absolute certainty on those deliveries yet. We expect to have a delivery in mid-February and delivery in late February."

He said the only information provided by AstraZeneca for March is the promise of an initial batch of 95,000 doses.

"But that's one of two or three deliveries but they will only confirm at this stage the 95,000 which is the first delivery."

Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan asked when daily updates on vaccines will be published by the HSE, however, no specific date was provided.

Social Democrat's co-leader Róisín Shortall also called for regular updates on the number of vaccines that have been arriving in the country and said a rolling total of vaccines that have been administered should be provided "at least twice weekly".

Prof MacCraith said batches of the Pfizer vaccine are arriving here once a week, while the Moderna vaccine comes in "approximately fortnightly".

Ms Shortall said "it's important that we don't raise people's expectations" adding that the "goalposts are changing" around delivery.

Mr Walsh told the Committee that an IT system to allow for the mass rollout of vaccines is being built from scratch.

He said this IT system would usually take six months to develop, but it is being rolled out in just three weeks.

Mr Walsh said that “the vision is to have a fully digitally supported process from end to end covering all aspects of the vaccine programme”.

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