Irish PM takes veiled swipe at EU over vaccine supply: ‘Only thing holding us back’

Vaccine row: EU chief claims bloc's jab rate is 'same' as UK

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The Taoiseach made the remarks on Tuesday evening after his Cabinet agreed to a phased easing of COVID-19 restrictions throughout the country. Like the rest of the EU, Ireland’s vaccine rollout has been hit by severe supply problems, but the number of jabs have increased significantly to their highest level to date this week. Mr Martin said Ireland will have administered nearly one million vaccine doses by the end of next week.

He added as of Tuesday, anyone who has been fully vaccinated against coronavirus can meet another person who has been fully vaccinated indoors.

The Taoiseach said: “Thanks to the truly historic effort of the world’s best scientific minds, we now have a range of brilliantly effective, and safe vaccines, little more than a year after this terrible virus began killing people.

“In Europe, we now have four separate types of Covid vaccines approved for use and it is increasingly clear from all around the world that each one of them has a remarkable impact, in terms of preventing serious illness and death.

“We have evidence here in Ireland, from the reduced infections in our vulnerable population and our healthcare workers who have already been vaccinated.

“The public health advice is clear: vaccination will radically reduce mortality when those over 70 and the medically vulnerable are fully protected.

“It will then further reduce infections, hospitalisation and mortality as younger age groups are vaccinated.

“These vaccines are transformative, and they are our way out.”

But in a veiled swipe at the vaccine supply crisis that continued to engulf the EU, the Irish Prime Minister said: “Every effort has been made to ensure that almost all doses are injected into people in the same week that they arrive, but disruptions to supply – to Ireland and throughout Europe – have held us back.

“Indeed, the only thing that is holding us back is supply.”

However, Mr Martin said that supply is expected “dramatically increase” over the next three months, with more than 800,000 vaccine doses so far administered.

This means the Government has administered the first jab to people over the age of 80, to frontline healthcare workers, “and we are making good progress with the most medically vulnerable”.

Mr Martin continued: “This has allowed us to move to the next phase and begin vaccinating people over 65, and people with underlying medical conditions.

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“By the middle of April, all over 70s will have had their first dose, and mid to late May all over 70s will be fully vaccinated.

“So, the truth is that despite the difficulties with international supply, our National Vaccination Programme is well underway.

“I expect that by the end of next week, we will have administered close to one million doses.”

The Taoiseach concluded the plan after that is to “pick up the pace even further”.

This will see nearly three million vaccine doses administered by the end of May, nearly five million by early July and six million doses by the end of that same month.

Mr Martin said: “Towards the end of April, we will examine the situation and in the month of May we will look at a phased reopening of non-essential retail, personal services, all non-contact sports training, religious services, museums, galleries and libraries, and additional freedoms for those who are fully vaccinated.

“Towards the end of May, and depending on progress, we will look at the reopening of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses in the month of June.

“July and August will see more intensive vaccination and the vast majority of the population will have significant protection against the virus allowing for significant opportunities to re-open even further.

“By being safe now, while significantly ramping up the vaccination programme, we will enjoy much greater freedom later in the summer.”

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