Irish Examiner view: Vaccines offer light at the end of tunnel

It seems underwhelming that at this stage only 94,000 people have received the first of two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine
Irish Examiner view: Vaccines offer light at the end of tunnel

Government has signed off on a deal worth €91m for GPs and pharmacists to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to roughly 1m people.

It is impossible to know when we might reach the point where we have to decide whether our vaccination glass is half-full or half-empty. 

Nevertheless, it seems underwhelming that at this stage only 94,000 people have received the first of two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. That is fewer than 2% of this republic’s population.

A broader view might suggest we are fortunate to have any vaccine at all, but, now that several are available, pressure inevitably grows to deliver it more quickly and universally. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said yesterday that 71,000 healthcare workers and 23,000 residents and staff in long-term care facilities had received the vaccine and that the target was to have 140,000 people vaccinated by Sunday.

Those figures emerged as five-star hotelier John Brennan said that he did not expect to reopen the Park Hotel in Kenmare, Co Kerry, until May or June because of lockdown restrictions. 

Like many others in that sector, all dependent on customers’ ability to travel, he has been forced to adopt a pragmatic view.

That pragmatism is reflected at EU level, where discussions have opened on how vaccination might allow people to travel more widely and how long it might be before that concession might be made. 

Unsurprisingly, Greek officials are driving this issue. Tourism is worth around €40bn a year to Greece and supports one in 10 jobs.

In 2019 — described as no more than a “mixed year” — tourism in Ireland was worth just under €6bn, but the industry supported 325,000 jobs.

Any return to those circumstances seems to suggest, even for an interim term, some sort of vaccine passport. In a country so instinctively opposed to a national identification card, that will pose many questions and problems.

It was announced yesterday that the Government had signed off on a deal worth €91m for GPs and pharmacists to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to roughly 1m people once it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

That news may avert those conflicts, especially as it is expected that the EMA will endorse the vaccine next week.

Vaccination is the light at the end of a very long tunnel and, in the meantime, the stay-at-home, isolate, and be responsible advice remains the best guide for all of us.

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