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Chief medical officer cautions against celebrating coronavirus vaccine

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it had made a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough.


A nurse preparing to give a patient a vaccine (David Cheskin/PA)

A nurse preparing to give a patient a vaccine (David Cheskin/PA)

A nurse preparing to give a patient a vaccine (David Cheskin/PA)

The chief medical officer has warned people it is too early to start celebrating a Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr Tony Holohan said he was hopeful about the progress being made in the development of a vaccine but he cautioned people against getting their hopes up.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Monday it had made a coronavirus vaccine breakthrough.

Pfizer and its vaccine partner BioNTech said the jab it is developing was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection.

Fifty million doses could be produced by the end of this year and more than 1.3 billion doses next year.

Scientists around the globe welcomed the news, with many saying it was a significant breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19.

Dr Holohan described the progress being made on a vaccine as “positive” and said he was hopeful they would see “reliable” data from the trial when it becomes available to regulatory authorities.

“It is hopeful, but certainly not a time for celebration,” Dr Holohan said, adding that people need to be reminded to adhere to the public health measures currently in place.


Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan (Brian Lawless/PA)

Medical virologist Dr Cillian De Gascun said the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine trial was a positive development but he said there would be logistical challenges to its rollout.

“It is not going to be the global solution but it is certainly a positive first step,” he said.

The public health officials comments come as 270 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland on Monday.

One more death related to the virus has also been reported.

Of the cases notified on Monday, 69% were in people under the age of 45.

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The median age was 34 years.

In Dublin there were 103 cases, 34 in Limerick, 20 in Donegal, 12 in Cork, nine in Kerry, nine in Kilkenny, with the remaining 83 cases spread across 20 other counties.

As of 2pm on Monday there were 291 Covid-19 patients in hospitals including 39 people with the virus in intensive care units.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Desmond Hickey said Ireland’s progress in the fight against the spread of the disease was “notable” across Europe.

“We are continuing to see a worsening disease profile in many countries in Europe over the last number of weeks, and Ireland remains notable in its overall progress in reducing disease transmission and incidence,” he said.

Ireland now ranks 28th out of 31 European countries in terms of 14-day incidence rate, according to ECDC data.

Dr Hickey said 25 out of 31 countries now have a 14-day incidence rate greater than 200.

Seventeen countries have a 14-day incidence rate greater than 500.

“Only three countries have seen a decrease in 14-day incidence compared with the previous 14 days.

“These are Belgium, Malta and Ireland, and Ireland has been the greatest improvement with 43% reduction in its 14-day incidence compared with the previous two weeks,” he added.

Ireland’s national 14-day incident rate is now 161 cases per 100,000 population.

Over the past 14 days, 7,665 Covid-19 cases have been notified to the Department of Health.

Dr Hickey said of the cases notified in the past fortnight the median age was 35 and the mean age was 37.

Some 64% of cases were in people under 45 and 11% of cases were in people aged 65 years or older.

Dr Holohan said he would “not speculate” on what measures would be in place in the run up to Christmas.

“Ultimately Government will decide what measures will be in place in December and beyond,” he added.

Dr Holohan added that Nphet had not finalised any of its advice for after December 1, but he warned that people would still have to maintain a “very high standard of public health practice”.

“Everything will depend from our point of view on the progress we make with the virus,” he said.

Dr Holohan also said there was “nothing inevitable” about a third wave and that people’s behaviours can influence when it happens, how significant it is and how quickly it happens.

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