Friday, January 08, 2021

Photo: The Irish Times

HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly has announced an acceleration of the country’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“By the end of this week, our plan is to have given over 40,000 vaccines to frontline healthcare workers and nursing home staff and residents, the plan is on target,” he said in a statement this evening.

“We’re now going to accelerate our plan for residents and staff in long term residential care facilities – this means nursing homes as well as mental health and disability residential centres.”

Minister Donnelly continued: “We had planned to vaccinate all 75,000 residents and staff with the first dose of the vaccine by the end of January. We’re now accelerating this plan to finish earlier, meaning that the first dose will be given to all residents and staff in the next two weeks.

“We’re mobilising 65 vaccination teams including hospital vaccinators, community vaccinators, school vaccinators and the National Ambulance Service. Vaccinations will take place seven days a week.”

The Government has decided to use some of its one-week buffer as, said Minister Donnelly “our supply of vaccines has been constant and we’ve received solid reassurance from Pfizer that this will continue to be the case.”

He added: “Speed is of the essence and this is especially true for the most vulnerable people in our society.” The Minister was speaking following the European Commission’s securing additional doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine via the Advance Purchase Agreement negotiated on behalf of Member States.

“Today’s news is good for Europe and I look forward to reviewing the options which will be made available to Ireland. No decisions have been taken as to the allocation of additional dosages to Member States at this stage.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Photo: The Irish Times

Meanwhile, the Minister has welcomed an agreement between 16 private hospitals and the HSE to provide additional hospital capacity (to the HSE), to deal with the current Covid surge and in the event of further surges arising over the next year.

According to the Department of Health: “Under the agreement, the hospitals have agreed to supply, depending on the incidence of the disease, up to 30 per cent of their capacity. The agreement also provides for additional capacity to be made available by mutual agreement and a number of hospitals have already indicated that they might be willing to offer such capacity if required.”

Said Minister Donnelly: “I am keenly aware of the excellent local relationships that already exist between public and private hospitals and know that a number of the private hospitals have already begun to make arrangements to take on public patients over the coming days. The additional capacity created by this agreement is critical to enabling the public health system cope with large scale surges in the incidences of the disease.”

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