HSE CEO Paul Reid said on Thursday that Ireland expects to receive 1 million doses between today and 30 April.
AFTER A FIRST quarter marked by supply setbacks, criticism of the EU Commission and a rising incidence of Covid-19, vaccine deliveries in April, May and June will be key if Ireland is to protect its most vulnerable and re-open society.
As of Monday, 690,449 vaccines had been administered in Ireland – 503,796 were first doses with 186,653 people fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
A total of 855,360 doses had been delivered to Ireland by Friday 19 March.
A further 244,000 doses should be delivered by 31 March if Ireland is to meet its target of 1.1 million for Q1.
HSE CEO Paul Reid confirmed on Thursday that he expects AstraZeneca to deliver more than 100,000 doses next week – in addition to Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
For Q2, what level of supply can we expect? And what setbacks could we encounter?
Speaking earlier this week, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined EU projections for deliveries over the next three months.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to deliver 55 million doses of its one-shot vaccine in Q2. Pfizer/BioNTech is also set to deliver 200 million doses in Q2, with Moderna delivering 35 million doses.
“As for AstraZeneca, they will only deliver some 70 million doses. This is down from 180 million doses that they are contractually committed to delivering,” said von der Leyen, addressing the well-publicised setbacks with AstraZeneca.
The Commission President concluded her remarks by calling for “reciprocity” and “proportionality” on vaccine distribution.
While the UK has administered 43 doses for every 100 citizens, and the US almost 37, the EU lags behind at 12.5 per 100 people.
However, since February, the EU has also exported 41 million vaccine doses to 33 countries, said von der Leyen, including 10 million to the UK and one million to the US, which has blocked its own exports to the EU.
This has understandably frustrated EU countries and put pressure on the Commission to act. Ireland is no different.
Reliant on – and operating within – the EU framework, which takes a common approach across the bloc to procurement and roll-out, HSE and Department of Health officials can but sit and wait for weekly deliveries.
“Yet open roads run in both directions,” said von der Leyen. “And this is why we need to ensure that there is reciprocity and proportionality.”
“We are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that. This is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share,” said von der Leyen.
EU officials moved to tighten rules on vaccine exports on Wednesday making authorisations contingent on destination countries behaving “fairly” in return.
Brussels had wrangled with UK-based vaccine producer AstraZeneca over supply shortfalls, which prompted Britain to warn against “arbitrary blockades”.
The European Commission and Britain later issued a statement designed to calm tensions, stressing that their interdependence in producing vaccines means co-operation is needed.
It remains to be seen how the EU’s insistence on “reciprocity” and this co-operation will impact Ireland’s rollout in April, May and June.
Ireland receives 1.1% of all vaccines allocated to EU member states. The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson doses due for EU distribution in Q2 translates into just over 2.9 million doses for Ireland in April, May and June.
If all deliveries go to plan and all doses are administered it will result in over 550,000 people in Ireland vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, 192,500 with Moderna and 2 million million people with Pfizer/BioNTech.
Can we be confident all doses will arrive in order to hit Government’s target of giving 80% of adults a first dose by 30 June?
A spokesperson for the HSE said it could not provide an exact estimate for how many vaccines Ireland will receive in April, May and June.
“Delivery schedules and quantities have changed on a considerable number of occasions in recent weeks,” she said.
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“This is beyond our control and we therefore cannot provide a detailed delivery schedule.”
An EU Commission spokesperson said: “The Commission does not provide information on vaccine deliveries to specific member states.
“Member states authorities and vaccine providers agree themselves the details of deliveries to a specific member state.”
These responses do not provide certainty.
HSE Senior Officials, internally at least, say they are confident supply will ramp up in Q2.
One HSE source indicated that there are no guarantees regarding deliveries, but said Ireland should receive a significant volume in April, May and June.
This is one of the reasons HSE and Department of Health do not provide weekly estimates for doses administered.
HSE CEO Paul Reid said on Thursday that the HSE expects to receive 1 million doses between today and 30 April – and one million doses in both May and June.
However, Reid said Johnson & Johnson had yet to commit to a delivery date but that he expects deliveries to start from mid-April to late-April.
Between 95,000 and 105,000 doses are expected to be delivered here next week, he said. These will be administered to over 70s, residents of Long-Term Residential Care Facilities and high-risk groups.
With a decision on easing Level 5 restrictions on Tuesday – and a rising incidence of Covid-19 – Ireland’s vaccine supply over the coming weeks will be closely watched.
Whether it goes to plan or not remains to be seen.