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Covid-19 vaccinations for the 75-79 year old age category due to get underway this week have been suspended by the HSE due to reduction in vaccine supplies.
Around 120 practices due to get deliveries for this age group this week will not receive any supplies.
According to the HSE, the priority this week is to complete first dose vaccines for patients aged 80-84 years and to administer second doses to patients aged over 85 years who are due their second shot.
The delay in not expected to impact the overall target to vaccinate all those aged over 70 by mid-May.
A HSE communication issued to GPs last Friday (12 March) explained that “to maintain the equitable nature of the programme, the dose one allocation for the 75-79 age group is limited so as to ensure we reach as many of our 80 to 84 citizens before moving on to lower age groups”.
“This will impact on approximately 100 of the 500 practices scheduled for delivery next week.”
Up to 12 March more than 135,000 patients in Cohort three (the over-70s group) had received their Covid-19 vaccine out of a total patient population of 490,000.
The communication was issued to GPs before the suspension of the use of the Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday.
All patients over 70 are being administered the mRNA vaccines Pfizer/BionTech or Moderna, deliveries of which have been less than expected.
The HSE told GPs that “recent deliveries from Moderna have been less than the forecast quantity. Our ability to provide Moderna vaccine to GP practices has obviously been impacted by this. For the short-term we are only in a position to supply dose two to the already committed dose ones”.
“We are expecting our next delivery of Moderna vaccine toward the end of March. This delivery if uninterrupted, will allow us to increase vaccine supply to GP practices. It is our intention to push all available Moderna vaccines out as expeditiously as possible to allow for completion of all cohorts of older persons.”
The HSE also outlined how its new process for Pfizere/BionTech deliveries to GPs would operate, with the requirement to complete order forms stopped.
Following reports of late and poor communication surrounding vaccine deliveries, the HSE has committed to communicating expected vaccine supplies to GPs sooner.
IMO GP Chairman Dr Denis MacCauley told the Medical Independent (MI) that he was unsure when those aged 75-79 would begin to receive their vaccinations, as this would be dependent on supplies.
He agreed that “late communication and poor communication on vaccine deliveries is affecting motivation and efficiency” among GPs.
Dublin GP Dr Ray Walley, who is a member of the national Covid-19 GP liaison committee, told MI that there was a 15 per cent reduction in vaccine supplies last week and this week, resulting in a risk to the “equitable distribution” of vaccines.
Separately, he said he has noticed an increase in Covid-19 test referrals in his area, adding that some patients are presenting late with symptoms.