Vaccine task force report to be discussed by Cabinet today
Image: Shutterstock/Andreas Prott

THE HIGH LEVEL vaccine task force report which was delivered to government last week will be discussed by Cabinet today.

While the report does not deal with prioritisation, it does deal with the logistical challenges in vaccinating the Irish population in a relatively short period of time.

It aims to set out the entire vaccination process – from procurement, to storage, to inoculation. 

It is understood the report will recommend vaccine hubs be set up, with retired doctors and healthcare professionals who are proficient in administering injections being asked to help with the roll-out of the vaccine.

However, the majority of the work will fall to healthcare workers, such as GPs, nurses and pharmacists who are set to be asked to administer the vaccine programme.

The task force membership is made up of senior representatives from the Department of Health, the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, the Office of Government Procurement, IDA Ireland, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of the Taoiseach, together with expertise in the area of logistics.

It has met a number of times over the past couple of weeks to examine issues such as the supply chain, the vaccination process and the potential vaccination workforce. 

It is under this last heading that the task force is set to recommend a public call for retired healthcare professionals and GPs who feel they can step in to help administer the vaccine. 

It is understood that government will be looking for as many trained hands as possible to aid with the vaccination of the population, which will also include calling in the help of Defence Forces personnel.

Under sequencing plans, care home residents over the age of 65 and staff at these facilities will receive the vaccine first.

Next in line will be frontline healthcare workers in direct patient contact roles, and then those aged 70 and older, with people aged 85 and over receiving the vaccine first among that cohort.

Limited volumes of the vaccine will be available in Ireland in January and February, Taoiseach has said.

The vaccine will be available in Ireland one week after it is approved at a European level.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) by 29 December at the latest. Approval for the Moderna vaccine is expected by January 12.

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The Taoiseach said the “optimal period” for the rollout of the vaccine will come in May and June.

“The key point is this, the vaccine is a complementary tool to the measures we are already using in terms of restrictions.

“People need to be aware of that, just because a vaccine is arriving, doesn’t mean we can let down our guard.

“It will add significantly to our armoury in terms of putting the pressure on this virus,” he said.

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