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Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-out: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1007 No. 7
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane] My time is short and as the Minister knows, I like to use it by putting questions directly to him. I acknowledge and welcome the fact that half the adult population will have received its first dose of a vaccine by the end of this weekend. It is good news. There was a Government target of 80% of the adult population having received its first dose by the end of June. Will that target be achieved? What is the target for ensuring 80% of the adult population will have received its second dose of the vaccination?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly With regard to the Government target, as the Deputy will be aware, I have consistently said our target is getting the vaccines out as quickly as they arrive. The latest data I have show over 96% of vaccines are being administered within seven days of arriving in the country. I would reframe the Deputy's question to ask whether sufficient supply is going to have arrived here by the end of June to have reached 80% with dose one. It is unclear if that is the case. I was on the phone to the task force this morning in order to be able to provide the most up-to-date information and there are serious concerns with the supply of the Janssen vaccine. I can give the Deputy the exact details but we have been provided with best-case and worst-case scenarios. We were due to receive in excess of 600,000 vaccines to the end of June. The worst-case scenario would see us receiving very significantly less than that and even the best-case scenario I have been given would unfortunately see us receiving considerably less. There are questions around AstraZeneca and we do not have the exact numbers. Moderna looks to be coming in on time. There has been a slight adjustment with Pfizer but the company assures us that by the end of June we will have the contracted amount. In short, it looks like we are going to get substantial under-delivery with Janssen and there are question marks as to what is going to come in from AstraZeneca.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I acknowledge it is good news that by the end of the weekend 50% of the adult population will have received its first dose. However, the Government target was very clear. It was repeated time and again by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste that 80% of the adult population would have received its first dose by the end of June. Here we go again with more problems on the supply side. Can the Minister outline to the House why we are now seeing difficulties with the Janssen supply, as well as ongoing problems with the AstraZeneca supply? The Minister is saying there is a best guess at this point, as well as best-case and worst-case scenarios. Will he explain to us what that means in real terms and what is the reasoning behind it? What is Janssen saying, what excuses is it giving as to why the agreed targets are not being met?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Absolutely, I will give the Deputy the latest figures I got this morning. On the target, Deputy Cullinane, the others in this Chamber and I have had this conversation week after week for months and months. Members of the Oireachtas have quite rightly said they want the forecasts and we have tried to provide them but as the Deputy will be aware, we have always done so with the heavy caveat that the Government target is to get them out the door and that provided they arrived, this then would be the number of people who would be seen. I ask that this spirit still be honoured now because that is how we have always operated. In respect of the Janssen vaccine, the issue involves manufacture in the US. We, together with the EMA, are waiting on a decision from the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, on a manufacturing plant in the US, which manufactures the Janssen vaccine. The EMA is waiting on it. We have been waiting for quite some time and the issue has been live for quite some time now. If the FDA approves, the EMA then needs to make a decision and that will inform the best and worst-case scenarios. I will give the Deputy some specifics as of this morning. We are contracted to receive approximately 600,000 doses; I will get the Deputy the exact numbers. For June, we were contracted to receive about 470,000 doses of Janssen. The best case I have as of this morning is that we would receive about half of that, about 235,000 doses. In the worst case, which the Deputy was looking for as well, believe it or not, it could be as low as approximately 60,000 in June.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I thank the Minister for that update. I ask that he provide us with a full written report on those figures. It is not good news that we are seeing problems on the supply side again. It is unacceptable that the Janssen targets will not be met and that at best it is only going to be half, and there are problems with AstraZeneca as well. Of course, while we can celebrate the 50% number being achieved by the weekend, it was a Government target, repeated time and again by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste, that 80% of the adult population would have received its first dose by the end of June.

I have two quick questions for the Minister on the impact of the cyberattack, which I gave him prior notice of yesterday. The first concerns medical cardholders whose cards are due to expire. Due to the fact they cannot get the cards renewed as a consequence of the cyberattack, pharmacists are not dispensing the drugs, which is obviously a real difficulty. Second, is there any update on patient or staff data breaches yet? Is there any update from those who are examining the systems as to the level of compromise of either patient or staff data?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy for raising this with me. On the situation whereby the medical cards cannot be updated right now, I am discussing it with the Department and we will discuss it with the HSE. My position is that essentially, anyone who has a medical card that needs to be renewed should not have services cut off. We need to roll that access through until they have them renewed. We cannot have people being denied access because of the cyberattack and we will be continuing these conversations. I thank the Deputy for raising it with me.

On the patient data, there is a forensic piece of work going on, server by server, laptop by laptop, to establish what level of data have been taken. As Members will be aware, there were some suggestions that there might be a big dump of sensitive data on Monday. We did not find one but it does not mean nothing is going to happen. The advice I have from the Garda side and the criminal investigation, but also from the technical experts-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I thank the Minister.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly -----is that anyone who is approached by someone who looks to have data they should not is not to engage but immediately to contact the Garda at the local station in the first instance and then through the confidential line on 1800 666 111.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly We are over time. I am sorry but if Members are going to divide it like this other Deputies are going to suffer. There are ten minutes. I am sorry for interrupting the Minister but I had to.

Deputy Darren O'Rourke: Information on Darren O'Rourke Zoom on Darren O'Rourke I raise the vaccine roll-out in County Meath. Everyone wants the roll-out to be a success and I welcome the comments commending those involved in the roll-out. I of course encourage people to take their appointment when they get it. However, in County Meath there is an acknowledged capacity issue at the testing centre in Simonstown. This is in part because County Meath has suffered from years of under-resourcing in public health and primary care, which I know from my time working in the health service and from the regional health forum. Vaccination of the 60-to-69-year-old cohort is not yet finished in the county and in its roll-out there were discrepancies in respect of age and geography; a type of postcode lottery for want of a better phrase. Unfortunately, people voted with their feet in some cases and went directly on spec to the Helix. Now for the 50-to-59-year-old age cohort, people on the County Dublin border, in Ashbourne, Ratoath, Dunshaughlin and Dunboyne are receiving appointments not at the Helix, nor Citywest or Simonstown, but in Mullingar. I fear what this will mean for uptake and confidence in the roll-out. All the staff are doing their very best but there is an acknowledged capacity issue. I heard my colleague, Deputy Paul Donnelly, raise the same issue yesterday in respect of the neighbouring area of Dublin 15. These capacity constraints are acknowledged by the HSE. Is the Minister aware of them? Bearing in mind we are not yet into the younger, larger age cohorts in County Meath, can he confirm whether there are plans for a second vaccination centre in the county? He mentioned UCD but nowhere in County Meath. Fairyhouse, for example, might be a good location. If there are such plans, when will that vaccination centre open?


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