The government today unveiled a detailed plan for how its Covid-19 vaccination strategy will be implemented in the coming weeks and months.
Here’s everything you need to know about what’s going on:
Who can get vaccines first?
The highest priority groups, those over the age of 65, living in long-term care facilities and on the front line healthcare workers in direct contact with the patient will receive the first vaccine.
The next rows for the vaccine will be those over 70 years of age – of these, the age group of 85 plus will be the first, followed by those aged between 80 and 84 years; then from 75 to 79 years and finally people between the ages of 70 and 74.
Other health workers will be next in line for inoculation, followed by those in the 65-69 age group, giving priority to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
Key workers will receive the next vaccine, followed by those in the 18-64 age group who are considered high risk, are residents of long-term resident facilities or live / work in crowded conditions.
When will vaccination start?
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) decision to bring forward the possible approval of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine on December 21 could allow it to be launched here before the new year.
The High Level Working Group on Vaccination states that, once approved by the EMA, “the earliest delivery from the vaccination site in Ireland is in a few days”.
The vaccines will be delivered in three stages – the initial launch, a mass boost and free access.
In the early stages, the supply of vaccine will be limited, as only a small number of vaccines will be approved.
Over time, vaccine production will expand and become more available to the Irish public.
During this mass increase (second phase), the Department of Health said it expects mass vaccination centers to be introduced.
Where will the vaccines be available?
Five types of vaccination sites (VACs) were considered. It is likely that all delivery options will be used in different stages, according to the Department of Health.
The five types of VAL considered are:
- Long-term residential care facilities
- Large-scale healthcare sites
- Mass Vaccination Centers (MVC)
- General practice
- Community pharmacy
Initially, Covid-19 community vaccination teams will be deployed to administer vaccines to residents and staff of long-term care institutions.
The department has identified a number of large-scale healthcare sites that will be used as hubs for mobile vaccination teams to collect vaccines from storage.
There was also a “positive commitment” with Nursing Homes Ireland to identify a number of private nursing homes that would be among the locations for the early stages of the vaccination program.
The Mass Vaccination Centers (MVCs) will be located regionally and designed to meet a large number of recipients in an efficient and timely manner.
Discussions are taking place with the relevant authorities to ensure that a geographical distribution of these CVMs is ensured.
As more vaccines are approved and a wider population is targeted for vaccination, general and community practice offices will play an increasing role in the administration of vaccines.
Will I have to pay for a coronavirus vaccine?
No, the vaccines will be available free of charge to everyone in Ireland.
How will the vaccination process work?
Members of groups nominated for vaccination will be invited to register and consent to vaccination and then be offered scheduled appointments.
At the vaccination site, the details of a person will be recorded along with the details of the lot and a date / time stamp.
The recipient will be asked to wait 15 minutes after vaccination to monitor for any immediate side effects.
Follow-up reminders will be issued to ensure that a person returns for the second dose three weeks later. The recipient will be able to report any suspected adverse reactions experienced on a portal on the website of the health regulator.
Who will administer the vaccine?
All vaccinators will be qualified and registered health professionals who will receive “comprehensive and specialized” training relevant to the types of Covid-19 vaccines they will administer.
The currently qualified skilled vaccination workforce includes up to 180 dedicated specialist vaccinators at Community level and around 1,500 health workers who have been trained as fellow vaccinators in the recent influenza vaccination campaign.
Family physicians and pharmacists “can provide increased capacity for this program subject to agreement.”
Options considered for expanding the vaccination workforce include recruiting recently retired medical staff and nurses, requiring staff to work overtime, and hiring a private vaccination service.
Is the vaccine safe?
The EMA is the expert regulatory body responsible for approving all vaccines for the EU. He will not release any medicine if there are safety issues.
The World Health Organization recently assured people that the process behind the development of a Covid-19 vaccine has been accelerated, but “the corners have not been cut.”
Here in Ireland, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn issued a statement this week, explaining that it is understandable that people have questions and concerns about the rapid delivery of the vaccine.
Dr Glynn said the shorter term was due to research and scientific efforts alongside global “unprecedented” investment in vaccines.
He said that the manufacturing process has also started in parallel with the tests of the third phase, so that it is in the field and ready to be carried out in certain figures if approved.
Professor Karina Butler, Consultant Pediatrician and Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and Dr. Cillian De Gascun, Director of the National Reference Laboratory for Viruses, recently answered some important questions about Covid-19 vaccines.