The CEO of the Health Service Executive Paul Reid has said they are continuing to see strong vaccine confidence and take-up.

At the weekly HSE briefing, Mr Reid said recent Amárach Reseach data shows that the percentage of the population who say they will definitely take a vaccine has increased from 45% in November to 70% today, with an additional 17% saying they will "probably" take a vaccine.

He said the latest social activity measure by the ESRI shows that support for the vaccine remains strong.

He said HPSC data just being finalised shows a "quite extraordinary take-up" throughout the age groups.

"Based on the CSO data that they are working off...for the 85 years plus, 96% have received dose one", Mr Reid said. "80 to 84, 99% dose one. 70 to 79, 97% , and 74 to 75 is 92%."

He said 73% of the 60 to 69 group have received dose one, and 26.5% of 50 to 59s, as these cohorts are still receiving vaccines.

Paul Reid said the aim is to administer 260,000-280,000 vaccines next week.

He said 650,000 people have registered on the online portal for vaccine appointments.

He said 33,000-35,000 are registering on a daily basis, with 25,000-28,000 signing up on the first day age cohorts are open.

GPs have administered over 900,000 vaccines as of 10 May, and are expected to have delivered over a million doses by the end of the weekend, he said.

He added that GPs are expected to have given 1.2 million doses by the end of next week.

The HSE's Lead for the vaccination program, Damien McCallion said it is hoped that pharmacists could begin vaccinating in June.

He said this will give additional capacity to the overall vaccination program.

When asked about those who are in the 60 plus group who still have not received an appointment, Mr McCallion said there are some regional variations in relation to the populations and uptake across different areas.

He said they have a team that is looking for anyone who might be in what they call a long waiting category.

Paul Reid said the HSE’s commitment continues to be "meeting whatever supply comes at us".

"We're doing it. Last week it was 96% administered, and the previous week it was 93%."

He said the HSE's submission on vaccine use to the National Immunisation Advisory Community was on the basis that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be used on those aged 45-50.

Mr Reid said the HSE are awaiting recommendations from NIAC.

Read latest coronavirus stories

Paul Reid said their plan is geared towards trying to achieve the Government's target of 80% towards the end of June.

"That’s what we’ve been modelling out to try and do", he said.

"But next week, in terms of what will be available, will certainly be after we do our assessment of it. Then we’ll be able to look out and see what ages and what stages – end of June, July, August – will qualify that. This will be our 28th time to do this... so we have to put huge caution around what issues."

Mr Reid said everyone is anxious to put out a good infogram that shows the ages of the populations at what indicative weeks they can expect to be called forward, but it does need a relook.

He said they are anxious to get NIAC’s recommendation "as soon as possible."

"We need to see that once it emerges and we need to relook at it and reassess it again based on recommendations that come through."

Mr Reid said the "noticeable lift in the national mood" can be seen in the vaccination centres across the country.

He said there is "joy and confidence emerging" from the vaccination centres.

He said the improvement in mental health and wellbeing of the population "is better for the health service".

"It just feels like we're all feeling better."

Paul Reid said there has been a "complete transformation" in the number of people over 75 being diagnosed with Covid-19.

"Less than 1% of the 6,175 confirmed cases [over past 14 days] have been among people over the age of 75 so a complete transformation from what we were seeing last year," Mr Reid said.

He said hospital admissions are down to 112, 10% on last week.

Mr Reid added that the number of people in ICU with Covid-19 is down to 34, 8% on same day last week.

The HSE's Chief Clinical Officer and Clinical Lead for Covid-19, Dr Colm Henry said the "level of harm done" by Covid-19 is decreasing.

Dr Henry said levels are now at "levels seen in July of last year".

He said "the vaccine effect has broken the link between the number of cases per day and the harm that's been done".

"The level of harm it's doing particularly among vaccinated groups is at a level like we were seeing in July or August, when there was a fraction of the number of cases we're seeing now.

"And this is because of the vaccine effect. It has broken the link between the number of cases per day which are so high, and the harm that's been done by those cases as it translates into illness, hospitalisation, ICU admissions and all the havoc it has wreaked in healthcare settings, particularly nursing homes and hospitals."

Paul Reid warned that "it's only half-time...and many a lead has been lost after half-time."

"It certainly feels like we're winning, but as we always say, it still probably feels like it's only half time, and many a good lead was lost in the second half of the game."

Paul Reid said they have seen a "slight improvement" in the number of parties and out of school activities that they have been alerted to through public health teams, and it is "vital and crucial" that this trend continues.

"I do appreciate that we're asking a lot of people to put on hold a lot of important celebrations – whether its 18th birthday parties or whatever, and it’s a really difficult time for young people.

"We are confident that there are better days ahead where all those celebrations can happen in a much safer way, but for now the priority has to be to support young people, particularly Leaving Certs, being able to do their exams."

Dr Colm Henry said the number of cases of children from school outbreaks is a "small fraction" of the total number of children of school-going age.

He said the "great majority" of children who test positive are not associated with school outbreaks.

He said 3.3% of children in a school setting have contracted Covid-19, but 100% have had their academic year impacted.

"What we see is the huge work of parents, teachers, all the staff in schools and our public health teams in maintaining, through some difficult times, continuity of education", Dr Henry said.

"We know the harm that was done to children... particularly younger children and special needs children through disruption of their education. This continuity... deserves huge acknowledgement by all of us."

The Chief Operating Officer of the HSE, Anne O'Connor told the briefing that the number of people on outpatient waiting lists has "stayed static at just over 600,000".

Ms O'Connor "there is significant activity" at the country’s hospitals.

Ms O'Connor, said there are currently 41 outbreaks, of which 15 are in hospital settings and 26 are in long term residential care facilities.

In relation to older persons services, she said there are five centres with outbreaks, which is less than 1% of the 517 nursing homes.

Maternity hospitals told to comply with HSE guidance

Paul Reid said he wanted to acknowledge that restrictions at maternity hospitals had caused "a lot of anxiety" to couples, but also that maternity hospitals have a "very challenging role" to play to ensure staff and patients are safe.

He said hospital groups have been advised by the Chief Clinical Officer to comply with the conditions set out by the HSE.

He said he personally spoke to all of the hospital group CEOs yesterday.

"Local risk assessments always have to be made and they have to be valued at a local level", Mr Reid said.

"Carrying out those risk assessments, the factors that we have set out that should be considered are – the level of restrictions in place nationally, the number of vaccinated staff in the hospital, the number of staff absent due to Covid infection in that hospital, and the rate of community transmission at a local level."

He said a detailed template was sent out on Wednesday to each hospital group to assess the current position in each of them, and these have been returned.

COO Dr Colm Henry reiterated that it was the HSE's guidance to maternity hospitals that partners are allowed to be present "during all stages of labour".

Dr Henry said some hospitals have "interpreted that to mean at later stages of labour".

"But hospitals are much safer now due to vaccination program of healthcare worker and lowered transmission so I can make it clear that when we said partners can be present we meant during the whole duration of labour and not just a phase at the end of labour."