HSE chief 'optimistic' as vaccination rollout gathers pace

Paul Reid acknowledges shortage of 40,000 doses of J&J vaccine due to be delivered next week, but says he is hopeful this could be made up in time
HSE chief 'optimistic' as vaccination rollout gathers pace

People waiting in the observation room at the City Hall, Cork where people from 65-69 were getting their Covid-19 vaccination. Picture: Dan Linehan

The director-general of the HSE, Paul Reid has said that he was “highly encouraged” by the level of registration among those aged 56-59 for vaccination.

Mr Reid told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that 34,000 people registered for vaccination on Thursday while 452,000 had registered already through the online portal. People in the 60-69 cohort were also still registering and he encouraged anyone who has not yet done so to come forward.

The revised vaccination plan has been concluded and the HSE is awaiting a response from the Government, he said.

The three key principles of the plan were to continue the roll out on the basis of age, using all the vaccines available at any time with no holding any for later and maximising use of available vaccines.

As of Tuesday, a total of 1,655,866 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered in Ireland, comprising 1,201,373 first doses and 454,493 second doses.

The HSE chief said more than one in three people in the country have been vaccinated with a first dose and one in eight have had two doses.

New research by European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows Ireland's Covid-19 vaccine rollout is in line with the EU average.

Momentum

There was strong momentum for the roll-out, he added, with 220,000 to 240,000 expected to be vaccinated this week and a further 250,000 to 270,000 next week. 

On Thursday of this week, 46,000 were vaccinated, the highest one day level to date.

Mr Reid acknowledged that there would be a shortage of 40,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to be delivered next week, but he was hopeful that this could be made up in time:

I've certainly never felt a stronger moment of hope and optimism than we do feel now.

“We all really want to see this home now. We still have a lot of the (vaccine) programme to get through.”

The HSE had been working seven days a week since January of 2020. 

He said there should still be caution as only one in three people had still received their first vaccine, while one in eight had had their second dose. 

We still have a lot to get through, we don’t want to slip back. 

When asked about antigen test kits going on sale in Lidl from today, Mr Reid said that antigen testing had a role to play, especially in certain sector. He said that PCR testing remained the gold standard as there were issues with the accuracy of antigen testing for those who were asymptomatic or not experienced with testing.

Mr Reid said he expected frontline staff to take the vaccine, and they were taking a risk if they did not and decisions would have to be taken on a local basis. He said it was not appropriate for someone who had not been vaccinated to be dealing face-to-face with people.

On the issue of the measurement of Covid deaths in Ireland, which is alleged to have been under-reported by an international study, Mr Reid said that he believed Ireland had taken the right approach, but he was certain that correlation studies would be completed shortly.

Pregnant women

Mr Reid confirmed that pregnant women will be offered vaccines from next week.

He said the details are still being finalised but it is expected that women will be referred by their maternity hospitals and consultants for a vaccine appointment at a centre.

He added that women will be contacted early next week about "where they should go and where they will be referred to for the vaccine administration".

Asked about the confusion surrounding Covid-19 restrictions on partners attending maternity hospitals, Mr Reid said there are still risks but restrictions should be lifted across the country when it comes to certain circumstances.

Maternity Restrictions

"Restrictions, particularly related to partners for the 20-week scan and for being there at the birth and labour and neonatal intensive care visits for parents, we do believe the conditions are right now to reduce those restrictions."

He said the HSE has asked the country's 19 maternity hospitals to inform it of any particular risk.

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