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On the jab Over 77,000 Covid-19 vaccines given to date, the HSE says

Of that figure, 69,378 were for frontline healthcare workers, with 7,925 for residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

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Declan Brazil, Head of maintenance at Ferbane Care Centre, Co. Offaly, receives his vaccine from public health nurse Siobhan Ryan, as the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to multiple nursing homes began today, with Ferbane Care Centre one of 22 care homes to receive the jab (Brian Lawless/PA)

Declan Brazil, Head of maintenance at Ferbane Care Centre, Co. Offaly, receives his vaccine from public health nurse Siobhan Ryan, as the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to multiple nursing homes began today, with Ferbane Care Centre one of 22 care homes to receive the jab (Brian Lawless/PA)

Declan Brazil, Head of maintenance at Ferbane Care Centre, Co. Offaly, receives his vaccine from public health nurse Siobhan Ryan, as the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to multiple nursing homes began today, with Ferbane Care Centre one of 22 care homes to receive the jab (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland has administered over 77,300 vaccines as of Wednesday, the HSE chief executive Paul Reid said.

Of that figure, 69,378 were for frontline healthcare workers, with 7,925 for residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

In addition, over 4,000 healthcare workers have now completed training to administer the vaccine, a HSE briefing on Thursday heard.

Ireland is aiming to vaccinate 700,000 people by the end of March, and up to four million by the end of September, under projections from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

That will depend on additional vaccines, such as AstraZeneca, being approved by the European Medicines Agency – which could happen by the end of January.

Its arrival would greatly help the rollout of the vaccine programme in Ireland, the HSE said.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said: “The AstraZeneca vaccine first would make a big difference in terms of where it can be used.

“It isn’t as precious a vaccine, in every sense of the word.

“In terms of transport, in terms of its storage, in terms of it’s shelf life.

“So it lends itself much more easily to the traditional vaccination settings, that’s to say pharmacies, GP settings.

“And also to mass vaccination centres.”

Mr Reid warned that the situation in our hospitals remains “quite grim”, with 1,838 Covid-19 cases in hospitals, 169 in intensive care units and 100 patients on ventilators.

In many hospitals, the proportion of patients who have acquired Covid within the hospital setting is half, or even more, of the total number of patientsDr Colm Henry

Dr Henry said Ireland’s 14-day-incidence rate is now 20 times what it was in December, the second worst figure in Europe.

He also raised concerns about the number of people who are acquiring the virus in hospitals.

Speaking on Thursday, he said: “In many hospitals, the proportion of patients who have acquired Covid within the hospital setting is half, or even more, of the total number of patients.

“In other words, us modelling off these figures (daily cases), predicting the impact on hospitals, doesn’t take account of what happens with a hugely disruptive infective outbreak.”

The Tanaiste has warned that the outbreak of coronavirus cases in Ireland’s hospitals remains “precarious”.

Leo Varadkar said the struggle to contain the pandemic will continue over the coming weeks.

He urged people to support health staff by following health regulations.

“We need to decrease the number of people getting Covid and going into hospital, and that is the best way we can turn the corner in the situation,” he told the Dail.

“What is somewhat encouraging is the number of admissions to hospital yesterday, which was 149, but the number of discharges was 128, so the net increase in the last day is much smaller than previous days.”

He added, however, that there is a “glimmer of hope”.

“Cases have been falling now for a number of days, we may see the total number of people being hospitalised starting to fall in about a week’s time,” he added.

Mr Varadkar went on to warn that it will be a “very precarious and dangerous” time in hospitals for the next two weeks.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said the situation in Ireland’s hospitals is continuing to deteriorate, adding that the daily figures make for “grim reading”.

The (health) staff are facing something that is unimaginablePearse Doherty, Sinn Fein

He said the latest reports show there are 13 hospitals without any ICU capacity, and seven other hospitals have only one ICU bed left.

“ICU capacity, we are told, are expected to be used up by the weekend,” Mr Doherty added.

“I want to express my solidarity to all the staff and indeed the patients.

“The staff are facing something that is unimaginable.

“It is a very worrying time, they are overworked, they are exhausted, they are anxious about the period ahead and many of them are angry that they are left in this situation.”

He also said that the Government’s failure to build additional capacity has left hospitals relying on surge capacity.

Mr Varadkar said the deal struck with private hospitals allows the State to use up to 60% of the private hospital capacity.

However, he said that while 30% capacity has been secured, there are discussions under way to use the additional 30%.

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