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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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Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall While that 50% figure is welcome, I appeal to the Minister to publish an updated supply projection or forecast table. He has already expressed concern about the supply of the Janssen vaccine. Can he put on record the expectations regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine over the coming weeks, and give us the worst-case and best-case scenarios?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly As the Deputy is aware, the supply forecast moves around. If everything arrives as we want it to for June, we will receive approximately 2.44 million doses. That would be 365,000 AstraZeneca, 1.42 million Pfizer, approximately 176,000 Moderna and approximately 476,000 or 477,000 Janssen vaccine doses.

I gave Deputy Cullinane the figures earlier in terms of best-case and worst-case scenarios for Janssen. Essentially, as of this morning, Janssen believes best-case is approximately half and worst-case is very low. It would be approximately 60,000 out of a contracted 476,000 vaccines.

With regard to AstraZeneca, unfortunately, we do not know yet. It has not been able to give us a line of sight on what exactly it believes is going to come in week by week. I spoke to Professor MacCraith before I came into the Chamber this morning to make sure I had the latest information available. Right now, we cannot give the level of accuracy, or even a range, which we are able to give on Janssen. AstraZeneca has not able to provide it to us. The task force pointed out to me that as we know, unfortunately, the supplies from AstraZeneca have been consistently under. The company has not been able to give detail as to how much it will be under for June. As soon as I have that information I will make it available, however.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall What is the level of concern on that at the moment?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly It is an ongoing concern. The concern is as per the AstraZeneca deliveries for this month and previous months.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Okay. With regard to cohorts that have received the first dose of AstraZeneca, there is a wide range of concern about the recent evidence showing that there is only 33% protection against the Indian variant. Even with the second dose, it is still only 60%.

Many people aged over 60 and under 60 are concerned about the implications of that. Generally, we should be concerned about that into the coming critical months when many people will be moving around more and because of the existence of the Indian variant. The Minister confirmed that he is sticking with the 12-week interval. Has consideration been given to using an alternative vaccine for the second dose, which would provide a greater level of protection to all those cohorts over and under 60 years of age?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The figures cited by the Deputy in terms of first and second doses are from the Public Health England study. An important additional point to make is that while those figures are around individual protection, a much wider protection is afforded at a population level, and therefore, the chance and the risks fall. It is, therefore, very important from that perspective.

There has been no suggestion that we would switch out the second AstraZeneca dose for one of the mRNA vaccines, for instance. At this point, all the vaccines we have are committed to the various age cohorts that have opened up, with a first dose scheduled and then a second dose planned afterwards. We discussed 12 weeks versus eight weeks, as per as per the UK. As I said earlier, the second doses are already committed, having moved from 16 weeks to 12 weeks.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall Okay. I ask the Minister to raise the possibility of provider the Pfizer vaccine as the second dose for certain of the cohort, bearing in mind the principle of vaccinating the older cohorts first. I ask him to consider the possibility of using Pfizer as the second dose. He might come back to us on that.

I want to pick up on those points made about cohort 7, which is a real issue. There is much concern about it on the part of people who have very much limited their lives over the past year. There is a real issue here about people in cohort 7, and still with some in cohort 4, whose GPs have opted out of doing the vaccinations in their practices and are moving to the centres. They are only getting one day per month, however. It means there is a long wait for people to access that vaccine, which is not acceptable. Why is the Minister not using pharmacists at this point? It seems that this would be the ideal arrangement for cohort 4. Is the Minister doing anything about that?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I have posed the same question frequently myself. The answer is that between the GPs and the vaccination centres, there is more than enough capacity-----

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall There is not.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly -----for the volume we already have.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall There is not if people have to wait a month.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly There is, in terms of the capacity.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Unfortunately, we have run out of time. Perhaps the Minister will get a chance before the end of the session to come back on the issue.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I am happy to discuss it later with the Deputy.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall The Minister might send me a note.

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey I have a number of questions. Will the Minister advise the House on how many over-70s who have registered for the vaccine have not, as yet, been reached? I have come across a number of those cases in my constituency. I would appreciate if the Minister could update the House on the reasons why those people have not been reached at this stage.

A number of weeks ago, I raised the issue of delivering the vaccine to housebound people. Could the Minister perhaps give a further update on that? I know that additional resources were being put on stream. I believe it is very important.

Can the Minister also give clarity with regard to the space between the first second dose? Is the ambition that the programme will remain at 12 weeks? Has he given consideration to that?

Finally, the Sinopharm vaccine is widely used in other parts of the world, including the United Arab Emirates, UAE, which has a large contingent of Irish people who live there. I understand the World Health Organization has recognised this vaccine now. Will the Minister update the House on our stance in Ireland? Do we recognise its use?

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler The programme for vaccination for those who are housebound began in March 2021. To date, there have been 3,900 referrals. The portal closed for referrals in mid-April. The National Ambulance Service is currently operating a seven-day service to ensure all individuals are vaccinated as quickly as possible.

To date, it has administered 2,700 dose one vaccines scenes and 1,400 dose two vaccines. There are currently 240 people awaiting their first dose. The programme continues and the National Ambulance Service is very busy going from house to house. I will point out an example of the logistics in this regard. The requirement for each vaccine is, at minimum, 30 minutes at each residence. In respect of 10% of cases, however, extra observation time is necessary due to medical reasons and visits can take up to an hour.

Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan: Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan I will be very brief as I only have two questions. The temporary assistance payment scheme, TAPS, is supporting the nursing home sector. With the onset of Covid-19, TAPS has proven to be integral in supporting our nursing homes and providing effective infection prevention, which has enhanced the safety of nursing home residents. TAPS is due to expire on 30 June and nursing homes are waiting to hear if this support will be continued. Will the Minister please clarify the status of the payment or when he is likely to announce details regarding same?

My second question is about the vaccine itself. I am not a doctor or a clinician or anything like that so I have no experience in this regard. Are there specific conditions that would allow for a consultant to make the recommendation that a patient should receive a certain vaccine over another?

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler The temporary assistance payment scheme was facilitated for nursing homes all over Ireland since last year. Initially, finances were made available up to June and this was extended up to December. Some €93 million was made available last year and €41 million was made available this year.


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