The government has decided that frontline health health workers, those in care, and the elderly will be given priority when it comes to who will receive the coronavirus vaccine first. This decision has come from the Chief Epidemiologist, who is responsibly for the planning and co-ordination of vaccines, in consultation with the Minister of Health. This decision regarding vaccine priorities was announced by the Chief Epidemiologist yesterday at a civil defence information meeting.
The plan is that vaccinations will begin immediately after Christmas, starting with doses being administered to over 1,000 frontline health workers. Residents in care homes or nursing homes, of whom there are between 3,000 and 4,000, will also be included in this first round of vaccinations. As the country receives its next shipment of vaccines, which are estimated to arrive in January/February, the priority will be administering vaccinations to the elderly. The Minister of Health says that this is, of course, because the elderly are the most vulnerable group when it comes to the virus.
This plan outlining the distribution of the vaccine has had to account for the fact that far fewer doses are arriving in the country than was initially thought. The EU and Pfizer agreement was for 85,000 doses of the vaccine but, due to a raw material shortage, only 5,000 vaccines are arriving in the country this side of the new year. This means that it will take longer than previously thought for the country to achieve herd immunity.
Once the most vulnerable groups are vaccinated, some coronavirus restrictions may be able to be relaxed, but all this is yet to come. Plans for the future will become clearer once health professionals have begun administering the vaccine, though the Chief Epidemiologist stated yesterday that herd immunity may not be achieved until the second half of 2021, meaning that things will likely continue as they are for the time being, at least.
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