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Vac on track Ireland will receive 35,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine next week, Health Minister says

"We have confirmed from AstraZeneca so far is three installments up to the end of quarter one and it will be starting next week with the delivery of 35,000 doses."

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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said community vaccinations will begin as planned next month (Julien Behal/PA)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said community vaccinations will begin as planned next month (Julien Behal/PA)

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said community vaccinations will begin as planned next month (Julien Behal/PA)

Ireland's first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be here next week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed. 

In what is considered a major step forward in the battle against Covid-19, 35,000 doses are due in days.

"We're expecting the first delivery next week,” the minister told RTE's Morning Ireland.

"We have confirmed from AstraZeneca so far is three installments up to the end of quarter one and it will be starting next week with the delivery of 35,000 doses."

He added: "The good news is that we now have three vaccines. Both EMA, the European regulator, and our own group have said that all three vaccines are suitable for all ages above 16 or 18.

"So I think that's very, very good news and we'll look through the implications and exactly how to roll that out now later today."

The minister also revealed that the vaccination programme in terms of the roll-out remains on track.

"As of Sunday, we had 207,000 doses arrive in the country and 200,000 or just slightly less were done,” he said.

"This week the focus is on the second doses for the healthcare workers and long-term residential care and then the plan is immediately to go back to the second group of frontline healthcare workers and begin the first doses there."

He continued: "At the moment, we have confirmation for is that by the end of March we'll have 1.1 million doses having arrived here.

However Minister Donnelly also repeated warnings from the Taoiseach that the lockdown would likely go on longer.

"We'll have to be led by public health advice at that point. Things are moving in the right direction in terms of the case numbers.

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"But as Dr Holohan said last night the rate of decrease is slowing and we're watching that very closely.

"It's probably too early to speculate on exactly what will happen in March. What we can say with some certainty is that everything would not be opening from the 6th of March particularly with this UK variant.

Speaking about the prospect of the return of big sporting and music events Mr Donnelly said that he would hope to see them return this year it will depend on how effective the vaccines prove to be.

Meanwhile the second quarter of the year may be the “big one” for Ireland’s vaccine programme, the Chair of Covid-19 vaccine taskforce has said.

Professor Brian MacCraith was speaking as Cabinet prepares to sign off on the purchase of an extra 875,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

It brings Ireland’s order from the US firm up to around 1.76 million doses – including the 880,000 the country was already due to receive under the EUs Advance Purchase Agreement.

“We are targeting very close to Denmark in terms of the rollout rate so it will be interesting to see how things are in July,” he said of the vaccination programme.

He said hopes it will be significantly ramped up to make the second quarter of the year the “big quarter” for the programme.

“You can be thinking of up to one million or more indeed vaccine doses per month arriving in that period,” he said. “You can be thinking of that.

“Again, if we stick, as we have done so far, to our principal of administering vaccines as soon as they arrive, you can be talking about administering up to 250,000 vaccine doses per week.

“That is where all of our planning is taking place.”

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