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corona get better 'Spectacular impact' of vaccine hailed as Covid cases among elderly fall by half

Minister says number of over-85s being hospitalised also falling, as one million more doses expected here next month

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Pictured in Grangegorman Primary Care Centre yesterday is Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly meeting with HSE staff

Pictured in Grangegorman Primary Care Centre yesterday is Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly meeting with HSE staff

Pictured in Grangegorman Primary Care Centre yesterday is Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly meeting with HSE staff

THE number of cases of Covid-19 among the over-85s has fallen by nearly half over the past two weeks following vaccination, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said.

He also said there has been a significant decrease in the number of elderly people being hospitalised with Covid.

"Our Covid-19 vaccination programme is also having a spectacular impact on hospitalisations of older people," Mr Donnelly told the Dáil.

"In January, 11pc of people hospitalised with Covid-19 were residents in long-term residential care.

"That has now fallen from 11pc to just half of 1pc. Given this really encouraging data, it is no surprise that public support for vaccines in Ireland is very high."

Schedules

There are now strong expectations that around one million doses of four different vaccines will be delivered here next month, although the HSE said it still has to confirm delivery schedules.

The first doses of the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine are due next month but the greater number will not arrive until May and June.

Mr Donnelly said: "In April, we are due to receive approximately a million vaccine doses. That will be approximately the same amount received up to the end of this month.

"In May, and then again in June, we are also due to receive around a million vaccines a month. As always, this is dependent on the pharmaceutical companies delivering to the agreed amounts.

"If they do, then four in every five adults can be offered either one or two vaccine doses by the end of June."

HSE chief Paul Reid said it is hoped to administer between 95,000 and 105,000 vaccinations next week.

Among the over-70s, 75,000 to 80,000 vaccines will be administered, with 15,000 to 20,000 due for people with underlying illness who are at very high risk if they get Covid-19. A further 5,000 vaccines will be given to people in long-term care.

Mr Reid said a delivery of 100,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is expected next week, although as little as 9,600 doses were delivered last week.

Around 750,000 doses will have been administered by the end of the week, with well over 500,000 first doses given out already.

Around 250,000 doses will have been given to the over-70s by the end of this week.

About 17,500 of the 30,000 people whose vaccinations were postponed while the European Medicines Agency investigated a number of blood clots in those who got the AstraZeneca vaccine have now received the jab.

There was an initial non-attendance of around 10pc for the vaccine, despite the watchdog saying it is safe, but this has waned.

Junior Health Minister Mary Butler said that at the end of this week, 740 people over 70 who are housebound will have been vaccinated.

Expand

"The first dose has been completed in Dublin city and county, the north-east and the midlands, and vaccination has commenced in the south-east and will continue there this week," she said.

"In the coming weeks, the programme will expand to the west and south of the country.

"All first doses are expected to be administered throughout the country in early April."

The HSE said there are 10 National Ambulance Service staff carrying out the housebound vaccination but they are only able to do around 14 vaccinations a day.

Around 11,000 people are now trained to administer vaccines.

A number of vaccination centres are in operation but the vaccine will also be administered in hospitals, through GPs and later though pharmacists.

The HSE defended the application process for vaccinators which has been criticised as overly detailed.

Chief operations officer Ann O'Connor said the application form could be filled out in an hour and it was essential to ensure that people had the right skills for the job.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland leaders have said they will consult with medical advisers over plans to reopen society in light of the slower vaccine roll-out here.

The vaccination programme in Northern Ireland passed 800,000 doses this week, around 45pc of the population.

That compares with around 13.2pc who have been vaccinated in this country.

This has led to concerns over travel between the two jurisdictions if Northern Ireland begins to lift restrictions before a majority of people in the Republic have been inoculated.

"This is something we will take advice from our medical advisers on," First Minister Arlene Foster said.

"We need to be very clear as to what happens when most of our population is vaccinated, if it is still the case that the Republic of Ireland is further behind. We will of course be looking at these issues as they come before us."

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