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jab done Vaccine sceptics targeted in ‘last mile’ of jab rollout – with plans to focus on young and border counties

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Professor Brian MacCraith. Photo: Mark Condren

Professor Brian MacCraith. Photo: Mark Condren

Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, speaking during the Electric Ireland Higher Education GAA Championships Launch and Draw at DCU, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, speaking during the Electric Ireland Higher Education GAA Championships Launch and Draw at DCU, Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It is hoped that within four to six weeks, most remaining restrictions will be eased as vaccination rates continue to rise.

It is hoped that within four to six weeks, most remaining restrictions will be eased as vaccination rates continue to rise.

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Professor Brian MacCraith. Photo: Mark Condren

Up to 10,000 people who were left vulnerable to Covid-19 for months with just one dose of AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered a Pfizer shot from next week.

It is part of a major new plan designed to target the remaining pockets of people who have a lower vaccine take-up.

Professor Brian MacCraith, who heads the Government’s Covid-19 vaccine task force, told the Irish Independent they are now looking at the “last mile” in terms of inoculating the population.

He revealed how the HSE is now embarking on a plan to identify pockets of groups who have a lower take-up as the rollout reaches the “final furlong”.

They include many people in their 60s who objected to taking a second AstraZeneca dose.

”The rollout of a Pfizer dose for this group of 7,000 to 10,000 people will begin next week,” said Prof MacCraith.

This is just one element of the plan which will also include pinpointing the geographical areas and socio-economic groups that have lower vaccine take-up.

It comes as the Government will next week set out the direction for the gradual removal of Covid-19 curbs impacting economic and social activities amid calls from chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan to get 90pc of over-16s fully vaccinated.

Members of the vaccine task force yesterday gave a presentation to the Cabinet sub-committee in which they outlined their plan for the final weeks of their work.

There is to be a big push to improve vaccination among 16 to 19-year olds who have a very high incidence of the Delta variant and are at greater risk of infection and transmission.

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) will “crunch the numbers” and provide a more accurate map of areas where the Covid-19 jab acceptance has been slower.

Adverts will target specific counties, and promote pharmacies at a local level, promising easy access to jabs.

Prof MacCraith said it will be a positive campaign. “A lot of the communications will be in local radio, newspapers, all identifying counties and targeting pharmacies in various areas.”

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The 16 to 29 age category are being targeted on audio platforms like Spotify and TuneIn, while new Irish communities are being targeted in ten different languages on digital audio.

Public health leaflets have been printed in 26 languages from Urdu to Swahili and videos have been produced in over 30 languages.

It is understood there will be a fresh drive to improve vaccination rates in some large employers including the meat industry.

It is hoped that within four to six weeks, most remaining restrictions will be eased as vaccination rates continue to rise. But Covid-19 for now is still a serious health threat with 1,875 new cases yesterday. Some 84.9pc of over 16s have two Covid-19 jabs and 87.4pc at least one dose.

However, figures obtained by the Irish Independent show that around 265,000 young people from age of 12 to 29 have yet to register for a vaccine. So far 156,000 of the 276,000 young people aged 12 to15 have registered. Some 97,000 of the 131,000 teenagers aged 16 to17 have applied for the jab.

Another 604,000 of the 715,000 people in the 18 to 29 year age group are signed up.

Although the extent of enthusiasm for the vaccine is encouraging, the higher levels of virus among Ireland’s young population mean it is crucial that vaccination coverage is extended further in order to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Prof MacCraith said it is now planned to get a county by county analysis to target areas where take-up is low.

He said: “We are in the final furlong so to speak. Our colleagues in the HSE are working with the CSO to look at it as best they can at a more granular level. Are there gender or geographical effects or socio-economic factors?”

Meanwhile Dr Tony Holohan warned that Ireland’s fourteen-day incidence is currently 531 per 100,000.

“This means that as per European Centre for Disease Control categorisation, Ireland is now classified as dark red.

“With so much disease circulating in the community the reality is that if you are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated you are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and potentially becoming very unwell.

"Today and over this weekend, the HSE are operating walk-in Covid-19 vaccination centres right across the country for anyone aged 12 years and older.

“This increased opportunity for vaccination is a real sign of hope and I strongly encourage anyone who has not yet attended for their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to avail of these vaccination centres this weekend. Please make sure to take up your second dose of vaccine as soon as it is offered. These vaccines are very safe and effective at protecting against the worst effects of Covid-19.”

Figures for confirmed cases over the past fortnight show the 25 to 34-year-old age group and those aged 13 to 18 had high levels of infection, but it is very low among the over-65s.

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