SIPTU representatives today (Wednesday, 14th April) met representatives of the HSE National Vaccination Team for an update on the progress of the national vaccination plan.
At the meeting, HSE representatives confirmed that National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advice states the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to people between 60 and 69 years old.
AstraZeneca was being used for Category 4 (People aged 16-69 with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk of severe disease and death) and remaining health care workers (HCWs)
Arising from this decision, SIPTU representatives understand all AstraZeneca vaccination clinics have been cancelled for this week and revised arrangements will be published.
SIPTU representatives were told that approximately 810,000 doses of AstraZeneca will be received between April and end of June 2021. Initially, these doses will be used for Category 4 people aged between 60-69 years old.
SIPTU representatives were advised 660,000 Pfizer vaccines would be received in April and that an IT Portal will open for people aged 65-69 years old this week.
The Portal will issue appointments to the nearest vaccination centre for the address given by the registrant. We understand it will be expanded to other categories as soon as possible. It is likely the next age category will be 60-64.
SIPTU representatives were advised people aged between 60-69 years old in Category 4 will be given an AstraZeneca vaccine. SIPTU were informed registrants will be advised on the appointment system and it will be the AstraZeneca vaccine they will be given. SIPTU understands a choice of vaccine will not be offered.
SIPTU was advised that approximately 150,000 healthcare workers (HCWs) have received a first dose vaccine to date and that a HCW who has received a first dose AstraZeneca vaccine will be offered a second dose vaccine of the same brand.
The HSE stated the gap between vaccines has been changed on clinical advice and HCWs under 60 years old will have a gap of 16 weeks. Those over 60 years of age will have a gap between vaccines of 12 weeks.
There is no clarity yet to confirm what option for vaccine will be available to HCWs aged under 60 years of age, or remaining Category 4, who have not yet been vaccinated.
SIPTU representatives understand this is being reviewed currently and we are awaiting developments.
SIPTU representatives were advised the expected delivery of vaccine from Johnson & Johnson (J&J) is now not due to arrive as it is being withheld by the manufacturer. It was expected 14,000 doses would be received this week. This is now not the case and further developments are expected. The J&J vaccine is a one dose vaccine.
In the immediate term, SIPTU understands most available Pfizer vaccines will be used to complete Category 3 (people aged 70 and older) of the sequencing document. These vaccines will be administered by GPs in the community and the National Ambulance Service for house-bound people.
SIPTU representatives did raise concerns with the lack of communication from the HSE to their staff on the recent changes to the vaccine programme, with specific reference to healthcare workers who have been vaccinated or are yet to be vaccinated. This point was accepted.
SIPTU representatives were advised our members concerns would be raised with national health officials with a view of such a communication document being developed. Parties agreed to re-engage next week on updates and ongoing issues.
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The current order in which people in Ireland will be vaccinated against COVID-19
(Category 1) People aged 65 years and older who are residents of long-term care facilities (likely to include all staff and residents on site)
(Category 2) Frontline healthcare workers
(Category 3) People aged 70 and older
(Category 4) People aged 16-69 with a medical condition that puts them at very high risk of severe disease and death
(Category 5) People aged 65-69 whose underlying condition puts them at a high risk of severe disease and death
(Category 6) Other people aged 65-69, other healthcare workers not in direct patient contact, and key workers essential to the vaccine programme
(Category 7) People aged 16-64 who have an underlying condition that puts them at high risk of severe disease and death
(Category 8) Residents of long-term care facilities aged 18-64
(Category 9) People aged 18-64 living or working in crowded settings
(Category 10) Key workers in essential jobs who cannot avoid a high risk of exposure.
(Category 11) People working in education sector
(Category 12) People aged 55-64
(Category 13) Other workers in occupations important to the functioning of society
(Category 14) Other people aged 18-54
(Category 15) People aged under 18 and pregnant women