I propose to take Questions Nos. 817, 956 and 959 together.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.
Vaccine allocation is a matter for my Department and further information is available here: www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.
The roll out of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.
The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.
The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus. The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in front line services often caring for the most vulnerable.
The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group began in February.
On 23 of February, I announced an update to Ireland’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy.
In comprising the initial Vaccine Allocation Strategy, the NIAC listed several conditions associated with increased risk of severe disease and death. In the intervening period, national and international evidence has become available which has enabled a more detailed analysis of underlying conditions that may increase the risk of developing severe disease or death.
The NIAC has now been able to more comprehensively identify those medical conditions and to distinguish between those which place a person at very high or high risk of severe disease if they contract the virus. Medical conditions and the magnitude of the risk they pose will continue to be monitored and periodically reviewed.
The NIAC continues to monitor data around this disease and indeed emerging data on effectiveness of vaccines on a rolling basis.
Further details are available at the following link: www.gov.ie/en/press-release/b44b2-minister-donnelly-announces-update-to-vaccine-allocation-strategy/ .