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AstraZeneca vaccine will not arrive in Ireland until mid-February – Taoiseach

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had held talks about securing early deliveries of the vaccine, prior to its anticipated approval on January 29.

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The army, medical students and dental practitioners could all be used to administer the vaccine (Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/PA)

The army, medical students and dental practitioners could all be used to administer the vaccine (Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/PA)

The army, medical students and dental practitioners could all be used to administer the vaccine (Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/PA)

The AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 will not be available in Ireland until mid-February, the Taoiseach has said.

The vaccine, described as a “game changer” by Micheal Martin, is still subject to approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which is expected on January 29.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had been in talks with AstraZeneca about securing early deliveries of the vaccine, so it could be rolled out as soon as EMA approval is secured.

But on Wednesday the Taoiseach confirmed this would not happen, saying it would still be a number of weeks before it arrives in Ireland.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the AstraZeneca vaccine will not arrive in Ireland until mid-February (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the AstraZeneca vaccine will not arrive in Ireland until mid-February (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said the AstraZeneca vaccine will not arrive in Ireland until mid-February (Julien Behal/PA)

He told the Dail: “We have a much more comprehensive and detailed plan in terms of ramping up then the volume for the next phase (of the vaccine rollout).

“Particularly after the authorisation, hoping that’ll go well, of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which should be on the 29th from the European Medicines Agency, and then for delivery in their timeline for mid-February.”

Mr Martin said the vaccine rollout will be ramped up from February onwards.

He told the Dail: “The key game changer for us in this, in terms of the availability of vaccines, will be AstraZeneca.

“We envisage significant ramping up particularly in February, March, April. And then May, June will be significant months as well, because the number of vaccines we will have will be very significant.

“It will no longer be a supply and demand issue, it will be the workforce issue. That work is well advanced.”

The Taoiseach indicated that the army, medical students and dental practitioners could be enlisted to assist with the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

Mr Martin was responding to a question from independent TD Michael Lowry during Leaders’ Questions on Wednesday.

This needs a national vaccinator workforce of a scale over and above existing hospital vaccinators, over and above GPs and pharmacists, and really drawing upon resourcesTaoiseach Micheal Martin

Mr Lowry asked: “Has the Government considered using the resources of the army, and in particular its medical resource?

“Should we consider enlisting medical students? Should we consider even using dental practices?

“Should we consider using skilled laboratory technicians? I think we have to think outside the box, I think it has to be creative.”

The Taoiseach replied: “Yes, I agree. Every category that the deputy has numerated there is being looked at, not just looked at, it’s being worked on.

“This needs a national vaccinator workforce of a scale over and above existing hospital vaccinators, over and above GPs and pharmacists, and really drawing upon resources.

“Some who have retired, for example, will be able to come forward. There will be vaccination centres across the country, in different communities.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

“The national task force is working on this right now.”

On Tuesday, the Cabinet signed off on an agreement with GPs and pharmacists to administer coronavirus vaccines to more than 1.5 million people.

GPs and pharmacists will get 60 euro for delivering two doses of the vaccine through surgeries and pharmacies, which includes a 10 euro admin fee.

There will also be an hourly fee of 120 euro for GPs and 70 euro for pharmacists who work in the HSE mass vaccination clinics.

The HSE estimates that GPs and pharmacists could administer vaccines to 1.5 million people over the course of the national vaccination programme, using their own premises.

The estimated cost of the scheme is 91 million euro.

Meanwhile, Wednesday saw a further 61 deaths linked to Covid-19 and an additional 2,488 new cases of the virus reported.

The Department of Health said 58 of the deaths reported on Wednesday occurred in January.

The median age of those who died was 83 and the age range was between 41 and 100 years.

As of 2pm on Wednesday, there were 1,923 patients with the virus in hospital, of whom 210 were in intensive care units.

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