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shocking figures Up to 20,000 over-70s still waiting for first dose of vaccine

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin

Taoiseach Micheal Martin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos Dublin

Around 20,000 people over 70 are still waiting for their first Covid-19 vaccine dose due to a shortfall in jabs, it emerged yesterday.

About 95pc of more than 480,000 people in this group have had at least one vaccine, but problems with supplies of Moderna and an issue with Pfizer earlier this month led to delays for thousands of others.

The HSE said: “By the end of this week we will have over 95pc complete and a small percentage left for next week.

“This is attributable to some early problems with Moderna shortfalls earlier in the roll-out of the cycle and other supply challenges during the over-70s roll-out cycle.”

However, this means the target to have all over-70s fully protected by mid-May will not be met and will have to be pushed out to later in the month.

Dr Denis McCauley, GP spokesman for the Irish Medical Organisation, said the remainder of people is “under” 5pc.

He said: “I think it has been a success. There were communication issues with GPs at the beginning around deliveries, but it has been a good roll-out.”

People in this age group who may have been missed can still be given the Pfizer vaccine by GPs who are involved in vaccinating very high risk or high risk patients who have underlying illnesses, he added.

It comes as political pressure is mounting to have 82pc of the adult population vaccinated by the end of June.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin insisted yesterday it will happen, but the HSE continues to give no guarantees.

New figures for vaccine deliveries released yesterday show that just 165,690 doses of different vaccines were delivered here last week.

They include 14,400 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has to remain in storage until there is guidance on its use following the European Medicines Agency assessment finding of a possible very small risk of unusual blood clots.

In the previous week just 135,720 doses were delivered here, of the Pfizer vaccine.

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The ongoing uncertainty around deliveries comes as the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) meets today to examine how the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be used.

Around 600,000 doses are due to arrive up to June.

It is unclear if the experts will confine the vaccine to certain age groups.

The Netherlands and France both of which have put age restrictions on the AstraZeneca vaccine because of its link with blood clots are rolling out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to all ages.

The NIAC will also consider whether the gap of 28 days between doses for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be extended in order to give more people protection from one dose.

Mr Martin told the Dáil yesterday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be key to hitting the end of June
target.

It comes as a new report from the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) has said that fully vaccinated people who meet up can relax physical distancing and mask wearing.

When fully vaccinated young and middle-aged people meet others who are unvaccinated, public health measures can also be eased as long as nobody is at risk of severe disease.

There is limited evidence that fully vaccinated individuals, if infected, may be less likely to transmit the virus to their unvaccinated contacts.

“Uncertainty remains regarding the duration of protection in such cases, as well as possible protection against emerging variants,” the ECDC said.

Testing and quarantine of travellers and regular testing at workplaces can be waived or modified for fully vaccinated individuals as long as there is no or very low level circulation of variants. Fully vaccinated people will still need to follow public health precautions in public spaces, in large gatherings and during travel.

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