The head of the High Level Task Force on Covid-19 Vaccination has said that Ireland is on course to give out one million doses per month over April, May and June.

Professor Brian MacCraith said today that the plan depends on supply lines and that delivery schedules have already changed 17 times so far, but officials now have more confidence about what will happen in the second quarter of the year. 

"At the moment, we are expecting over a million a month in April, May and June. We are scaling up infrastructure, locations and staffing to allow us, as we have done so far, to do this."

"It's exciting times, we'll have well over 3 million vaccines administered in over April, May and June."

Prof MacCraith said he understands the frustration that people have about the vaccines not arriving into the country, but he moved to assure people that the HSE is using the supply it has.

"Every available vaccine that has come into Ireland since the very beginning has been administered in the week they have arrived into Ireland. We cannot go any faster than supply," he said.

Prof MacCraith explained that by last Monday evening, 94% of all available vaccines had been administered, rising to 99% on Tuesday and all were given out by Wednesday, with more supply arriving in on Wednesday night.

"It's working that close to the edge," he said, "rest assured it's moving as fast as we can".

Prof MacCraith was speaking at The Helix in DCU today, where the first big effort for community vaccination was taking place, as 960 older people - aged 85 and over - got the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

He said that the public will begin to see the scale up in the coming weeks, with 80,000 doses administered last week and 100,000 planned for next week.

We could also be adding another weapon to our arsenal with the potential arrival of a fourth vaccine from Janssen next month, which is awaiting approval from the EMA.

Prof MacCraith said we could expect to get about 600,000 doses of this vaccine in the second quarter, with delivery starting in early March.

Meanwhile, the Health Minister said today that we have to accept that the UK is ahead of us with their vaccine roll-out, and he understands why people are looking at what they are doing.

Stephen Donnelly said that Ireland is a member of the EU and if we tried to purchase vaccines on our own, it is not certain we would be able to do that.

He said we have already advance-purchased 16 million doses, and he will be seeking Cabinet approval to increase that even further.

He said that Ireland is doing well at an EU and a global level.

"People are looking to the UK and you can't blame them for that, but the bit we can control is to get the vaccines into people’s arms as soon as they arrive here."

Regarding the discovery in Ireland of the variant first identified in Brazil, the minister said that the three cases detected relate to one cluster.

He said all the isolating, testing and public health guidelines have been followed, adding that he will be bringing forward legislation to the Dáil and the Seanad to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine for certain high risk countries.

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