Ireland will take ‘years to get back to normal’ under ‘unambitious’ vaccine plan – Prof Jack Lambert

Ireland should be purchasing vaccines direct from manufacturers to add to the ‘trickle’ arriving as part of the EU agreement, according to an infectious disease expert.

Professor Jack Lambert said it will take the country “years to get back to normal” under the current vaccination plan.

It comes after German confirmed it was buying an extra 30 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer jab to complement the 64 million it is receiving under the EU deal.

It is also buying vaccines that other EU countries have not taken up under the scheme and expects to pick up an extra 50 million doses of the Moderna jab.

France and Denmark have also moved to snap up doses other EU countries have opted not to purchase.

‘Unambitious’

Professor Lambert said Ireland’s vaccination programme is not ambitious enough.

“We are way behind the 8-Ball and if we go at our current rate, it will take years to get back to normal,” he said. “I think we should get vaccines from wherever we can.

“We are part of the European Union but I think, as an independent country, we have Northern Ireland right across the border and the UK has tendered for 100 million doses of Astra Zeneca; we should look at asking for five million doses of that vaccine to come to Ireland to speed up the process.”

Vaccination plan

The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly yesterday told a meeting of EU leaders that the Government aims to vaccinate 700,000 people by the end of March – including all nursing home staff and residents, frontline healthcare workers and people over the age of 70.

He said the programme aims to vaccinate 1.5 million people in the second quarter of the year.

Professor Lambert said the pace is too slow.

“We are getting a certain number of vaccine doses coming on a daily basis but the number is a trickle at the present time,” he said.

“We need hundreds of thousands of doses. We need to be acting more like countries like Israel who have already vaccinated a million with plans to vaccinate 11 million by March.

“It would be nice if we had a more ambitious plan.”

Approval

The first batch of the Moderna vaccine arrived in Ireland on Tuesday and the drug was officially authorised for use here yesterday.

Minister Donnelly yesterday urged the European Medicines Agency to speed up the approval process for the AstraZeneca jab.

The EMA expects to give an opinion on the vaccine, developed in partnership with Oxford University, at the end of this month.

Ireland is in line to receive 1.1% of all vaccines ordered by the EU under the group purchase agreement.