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covid latest Army to be drafted in to make sure Covid-19 vaccine reaches everyone


Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal Photography/PA)

A plan for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine will be ready within days, the Taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin told the Dáil yesterday that the Defence Forces could be involved in the major logistical challenge of getting the vaccine to all parts of the country next year.

A national Covid-19 vaccination strategy and implementation plan will be ready for consideration by the Government in nine days’ time, Mr Martin told TDs.

He said he has been assured by Prof Brian MacCraith, the chairman of the new High-Level Task Force (HLTF), that the plan will be ready by December 11.

However, he was told that a Minister for Vaccination should sit at Cabinet to ensure the orderly rollout of Covid protection for all citizens.

Labour leader Alan Kelly said he had a serious concern about coordination of the protective jab programme.

“The reality is that somebody needs to be in charge of the vaccine rollout,” he said.

“Somebody needs to be in charge of rules by which each and every agency and every organisation acts.”

The Taoiseach said the Government was “wholly committed to the timely implementation of the Covid-19 immunisation programme once the vaccines are approved”.

He said the HLTF had identified complex logistical challenges including storage and transport requirements “and it’s clear the rollout of the vaccine will require very careful and detailed all-of-Government planning”.

“We have some supports as well from the Defence Forces from a logistics perspective,” Mr Martin said.

The news comes as 269 new cases of the virus and 18 deaths were announced yesterday.

The daily toll is in line with the five-day average of around 277 cases daily but still above the post-lockdown target of 50 to 100.

The number of patients in hospital fell to 224 from 244 on Monday, but the number in intensive care stayed at 31.

The Government has also agreed to indemnify five drug firms producing Covid-19 vaccines against any liabilities that might arise from complications with the rollout.

The move is considered standard practice but is also a precondition of accessing doses of each of the companies’ vaccines and signals the Government’s confidence in the jabs being approved for quality, safety and efficacy by the European Medicines Agency soon.

The Government was last night unable to say what potential cost to taxpayers such an undertaking could be in the future.

A spokesperson said it was evidence of the Coalition ensuring it was “fully prepared” for the vaccine rollout and added that it has “every confidence” in the EMA approving the potentially life-saving injections.

The Cabinet yesterday signed off on the purchase of 875,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

It is the fifth advance-purchase agreement (APA) the Government has concluded with pharma companies as deals with AstraZeneca, Janssen, BioNTech/Pfizer and CureVac have already been secured.

“The practice of indemnification of pharmaceutical companies for the Covid-19 vaccines is standard practice globally,” the spokesperson said.

“The attorney general has not looked at the cost of indemnification.

“It is a matter for the State Claims Agency and is covered by commercial confidentiality.”

The Department of Health said indemnity agreements form part of the APAs negotiated at an EU-level and members can opt in or out of these.

“The relevant clauses address the risk to the vaccine supplier with regard to manufacturing a pandemic vaccine. Opting into these provisions is one of the pre-conditions for obtaining access to the vaccines,” a spokesperson said.

“Covid-19 vaccines can only be approved and used if they comply with all the requirements of quality, safety and efficacy set out in the EU pharmaceutical legislation.

“No vaccine will be used until market authorisation from the European Medicines Agency is obtained, and any authorised vaccine will be subject to monitoring by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.”

The EMA said it may need another four weeks to decide whether to grant its first approval for a coronavirus vaccine even as authorities in the US and Britain continued to aim for a green light before Christmas.

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