The HSE's Chief Clinical Officer has defended the pace of the vaccination roll-out plan in Ireland, saying they are "dishing it out as soon as we can get it in".

Dr Colm Henry said the HSE has worked hard with GPs to ensure the Covid-19 vaccine "goes up and down every road in Ireland to get to the right people" ahead of the roll-out of the programme to the over 70s from next week.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Dr Henry said that five in 100 people in Ireland have now got the vaccine and 1.7 individuals per 100 are fully vaccinated. 

He also said the AstraZeneca vaccine is also very effective and is showing more protection than Phase 3 trials predicted.

A UK study has shown it has 72% protection with sustained protection for three months and an enhanced response after a second dose, he said.

Dr Henry also said that the Moderna vaccine has been used for healthcare vaccination teams - including GPs and practice nurses who are going to vaccinate the over 70s.

He said the definition of residential care settings has been expanded to include congregated settings like religious communities and other places where older and more vulnerable people live. 

Dr Henry said that the vaccination of over 40,000 second doses to these long-term care homes continues next week.

The latest figures from the HSE show that 3,090 first vaccine doses were administered on Tuesday, as well as 83 second doses.

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Meanwhile it will be at least six weeks before cases of Covid-19 drop to around 100 a day, according to the Chair of NPHET's Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.

Professor Philip Nolan said that while case numbers and hospitalisations have reduced, the numbers are still too high.

"Last week by every indicator we had more disease and more severe disease than any point in 2020. We still have 170 people in ICU. That is an extraordinarily high number."

He said Ireland should be at around 200 to 400 cases a day heading into March and approaching 100 to 200 cases a day by the end of March.

He said both suppressing the virus and increasing protection from the vaccine will come together.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Prof Nolan said the bottom line is as people collectively drive case numbers down, it gives the Government options to reopen key priorities.

"Those key priorities are set out and focused on education of young people and ensuring our health service has minimum levels of Covid to deal with," he said.

Prof Nolan also said that double masking does give added protection, but is only needed if people are in close proximity with others.

"What is more important is with one mask or two, keep your distance," he said.