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Vaccination schedule Government hopes to begin rollout of Covid vaccine in Ireland before end of year

The Government published the national Covid-19 vaccination strategy at Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday following Cabinet approval.

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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Julien Behal)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Julien Behal)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (Julien Behal)

The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland may begin before the end of the year, the Government has said.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the first doses of a vaccine could be given before the new year if the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The Government published the national Covid-19 vaccination strategy at Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday following Cabinet approval.

Under the plan, up to 14.3 million doses of the vaccine could be purchased at a value of more than €112 million, which will be supplied to the public free of charge.

The most vulnerable in society, those with underlying conditions or over the age of 65, are being vaccinated first.

Mr Donnelly said a “dark” and “very difficult” year for Ireland was ending with “hope and light”.

“We are looking at hopefully at the first Covid vaccine being authorised by European Medicines Agency within a few weeks and it will only be a matter of days after that before we would see it being distributed here,” he said.

Mr Donnelly added: “If the EMA meet on December 21 and if they conclude on a positive on the Pfizer vaccine, it would likely be several more days, potentially December 23, before the formal authorisation would be given by the EMA.

“It would then take a number of days, potentially up to a week for initial vaccination here. But it is important to stress that this would be an initial delivery, it would at a very low volume. We’re not looking at widespread vaccination but it would be very encouraging if it did happen to even see the programme of vaccination commence before the end of the year.”

Mr Donnelly also said the scale of the Covid-19 vaccination programme would be bigger and more complex than previous vaccination programmes and would play a central role in the country’s exit from the pandemic.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan described the publication of the national vaccination programme as a “positive step” in the country’s response to Covid-19.

He said “exceptional efforts” were being made to develop vaccines as soon as possible due to the urgency posed by the pandemic.

Dr Holohan warned the arrival of the Covid-19 jab in Ireland “won’t mean zero-Covid” and that the vaccine would not have a positive effect on the trajectory of the disease for “at least months to come”.

“The vaccines will be delivered in stages and it will take time to vaccinate everyone,” he said.

“We know this so that means we need to be careful with our individual actions to stop the spread of Covid-19.”

He added: “We know we’re not through this yet. The virus doesn’t care that we’ve done well recently relative to other countries, it doesn’t care that we’re all tired, or desperate to see family and friends, and it doesn’t care that a vaccine is on the horizon.”

The vaccines will be rolled out in three phases – the initial rollout, a mass ramp-up and open access.

The highest priority groups, those over the age of 65 living in long-term care facilities and frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact, will receive the vaccine first.

Vaccines will be administered from long-term care facilities, hospitals, mass vaccination clinics, GP surgeries and community pharmacies.

This will be done by qualified and trained healthcare workers, including hospital doctors, community medical officers, nurses, GPs and pharmacists.

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said it would take a “collective effort” to roll out the Covid-19 vaccine.

He said that the timetable for the rollout will depend on the production capacity of the pharmaceutical companies, as well as approval from the EMA.

He said: “I think it all depends on the manufacturing capacities in the various companies, and the timing of the vaccines getting authorisations.

“We know that Pfizer-BioNTech will be, all things going well, authorised by the end of the year.

“Moderna the next vaccine then coming around January 12.

“Then we have another four to five candidates that the European Union has signed up to whose vaccines will come on stream at various points.

“This is subject to the manufacturing plans of various companies and the timescale in relation to the authorisation of the respective vaccines.

“We have a plan in place now, we have a plan to roll out.

“It will be a collective national effort now to roll out the vaccination programme as a very significant additional tool to deal with Covid-19 and getting people’s lives back to normal in 2021.”

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