The rate of Covid-19 vaccinations carried out by the HSE is set to decline by 40% across July as supply lines tighten, the head of the executive has said.
Some 340,000 vaccines were administered last week, with a similar number expected to be carried out this week and next.
However, the rate of daily vaccinations will drop to roughly 200,000 per week across July, Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, told the Oireachtas health committee.
“We have a good supply line for the next two weeks of Pfizer and Moderna,” he said, adding that what happens in July will come down to what the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has to say regarding the Astrazeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
“At the moment we will be down to just the two supplies from Pfizer and Moderna. Unless there is some change with regard to Astrazeneca or Janssen (Johnson and Johnson), we’ll be looking at just over 200,000 per week, about 840,000 for July,” Mr Reid said.
Ireland’s vaccination rollout, which has ramped up significantly in recent weeks due to an increased number of Pfizer vaccines, is to come into sharp focus once more with the accelerated spread of the Delta, formerly Indian, virus variant, and news that a second variant of concern has now been identified in that country.
Over 3.6 million vaccines have been administered to date, with more than a quarter of the overall population now fully vaccinated.
Separately, Mr Reid said that the recent devastating cyberattack inflicted on the HSE would see the organisation “take the opportunity to upgrade a lot of our systems to Microsoft 365”, a line of subscription services for Windows 10.
It emerged in the aftermath of the attack that huge swathes of the HSE’s technology were working off the now obsolete Windows 7 operating system.
“I will be very clear: we had invested €82m into malware protection, but we have a really old network which needs investment protection for security and the protection of data into the future,” Mr Reid said.
He said that the initial cost of the cyber attack would be “significantly over €100m” for the initial process, but acknowledged that the final bill would be greatly in excess of that.
“We can never be confident that we’ve seen the worst of it (the attack), but we can be confident in our own actions,” he said, citing the High Court injunction the HSE had obtained with the aim of preventing the publication of private patient data.
He said the HSE is not aware of the publication of further data.
Mr Reid acknowledged that “there were obvious vulnerabilities” in the HSE’s systems “because the ransomware attack happened”.
“No doubt there will be significant learnings but we are dealing with highly complex, highly skilled criminal organisations, which have investment behind them to increase their capacity and capabilities,” he said.
“The whole world has to raise its game.”
He said that to the best of his knowledge there had been “no prosecutions” to date resulting from the Garda and State intelligence investigations into the attack.
The meeting heard that 25% of the HSE’s servers have yet to be decrypted on the back of the May 14 attack, and that it will “likely take months before systems are fully restored”.
Mr Reid said that many systems are now operational once more, but interoperability between sites and systems is still not fully achieved.
“There is no underestimating the damage this cyber-attack has caused. There are financial costs certainly, but there will, unfortunately, be human costs as well,” he said.
Regarding visiting restrictions at maternity hospitals, which have been the subject of much criticism given pregnant women have had to face childbirth without their partners present, Mr Reid said the HSE has now recommended that partners “be facilitated during labour” on labour wards.
Maternity services have also now been asked to provide “a minimum 30-minute visit daily”, he said.
Mr Reid added that a meeting between the six maternity networks and the HSE’s maternal health programme is to happen this week, and that “subject to infrastructure limitations, I am confident that the least restrictive approach possible will be adopted”.