Government 'committed' to June vaccine target as Ireland to get 545,000 Pfizer boost

The EU will receive 50m extra Pfizer vaccines this quarter
Government 'committed' to June vaccine target as Ireland to get 545,000 Pfizer boost

Ireland will receive 545,000 extra doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next three months, which it is hoped will make up the shortfall that may be experienced due to heightened caution around the use of AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The government has said it's still committed to its target of giving at least 80% of adults their first Covid-19 jab by June.

It comes after news the EU is set to receive 50m extra Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this quarter on top of 200m doses already earmarked for the bloc.

Ireland will receive 545,000 extra doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next three months, which it is hoped will make up the shortfall that may be experienced due to heightened caution around the use of AstraZeneca and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Speaking this afternoon, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the government is standing by its initial targets.

“We remain committed to the objective that we have of delivering a dose for 80% of our country by the summer."

"We will be working around the clock, sparing no effort, doing all that can be done, with the supply that’s available to Ireland, to deliver against those objectives," he said. 

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said the vaccine programme is still "broadly on track," tweeting that what the country had lost in supply from Johnson & Johnson (also known as the Janssen vaccine), it had regained with the extra Pfizer doses today.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was "welcome news" that Ireland will be receiving close to 545,000 extra BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines, while President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said "vaccination is picking up speed across Europe.”

Vaccination delays

News of the new deliveries will be welcomed by the EU’s 27 member nations, especially considering supply delays and concerns over rare blood clots potentially linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson jab.

Johnson and Johnson announced that it was pausing the European rollout of its vaccine yesterday, just one day after the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended for the under-60 age group.

Alluding to J&J's decision, Ms von der Leyen said that there were “many factors that can disrupt the planned delivery schedule of vaccines."

She said it was important to "act swiftly, anticipate and adjust whenever it is possible."

Ms von der Leyen said the EU was doing “everything in its power” to support Europe’s rollout by increasing vaccine supply in the coming weeks and months.

At the end of her speech, Ms von der Leyen said the EU was “drawing upon lessons” learned in the early phases of the pandemic.

Looking forward, The EU President said that at a certain point, booster jabs to "reinforce and prolong immunity” may be needed.

Ms von der Leyen said the EU bloc had also entered into a negotiation with BioNTech for a third contract for a further 1.8bn doses of its vaccine in 2022 and 2023.

She said that other contracts with other firms may follow.

“We are in this fight together, and we will win this fight against this pandemic.”

EMA to speed up review of J&J vaccine, conduct risk-review of AstraZeneca

The EMA made announcements on reviews of both the Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines this afternoon. Pictures: PA Wire
The EMA made announcements on reviews of both the Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines this afternoon. Pictures: PA Wire

Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency has said it will speed up its review of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, with results expected next week.

The review started last week and as recently as Tuesday had no set deadline for completion. 

But now the pharmaceutical company itself said it wished to “proactively delay” its EU roll-out, there is increasing pressure to assess the vaccine.

This followed a decision by the US Food and Drug Administration this week to temporarily halt their use of this vaccine. They received reports of six cases of rare blood clotting in women among the 6.8m people vaccinated with the single-shot vaccine.

The EMA said in a statement on Wednesday: “EMA is investigating all the cases reported and will decide whether regulatory action is necessary. The Agency is working closely with the US FDA and other international regulators.” 

And the safety committee further stressed their faith in the vaccine, saying: “While its review is ongoing, EMA remains of the view that the benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects.”

Also today, the EMA announced it will now also compare vaccination data from the AstraZeneca vaccine Vaxzevria with its impact on fighting the virus.

They said: “EMA is undertaking a review of vaccination data and data on disease epidemiology including infection rates, hospitalisations, morbidity and mortality.

“The review by EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) will enable authorities to put the risks of Vaxzevria into the context of the benefits of ongoing vaccination campaigns.”

This was requested following a meeting of EU health ministers earlier in the week.

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