THE IRISH government is aiming to have vaccinated 700,000 people by the end of March, a jump from previous predictions.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly yesterday announced that, thanks to new vaccines being approved for use in Ireland, the vaccination roll-out will happen far more quickly.
Earlier in January, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he expected that 135,000 people in Ireland will be vaccinated by the end of February.
Speaking to RTÉ News at the time, the Taoiseach did not accept that Ireland is slow at rolling out the vaccine, stating it will be delivered "in accordance with the supply chain" and some of the most vulnerable people will have been fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of next month.
He urged people to be patient, promising "more vaccines will come" and more people will be able to be vaccinated once they are approved.
Since Mr Martin's promise, the European Regulator has approved the Moderna vaccine, and is expected to approve the Astra-Zeneca jab: this boost to the vaccine roll-out could now see a seventh of the population vaccinated by the end of March.
Taking to Twitter yesterday to give "a quick update on our vaccination plan", Health Minister Stephen Donnelly of Fianna Fáil, said "By the end of March, we aim to have vaccinated 700,000 people, including nursing home residents and staff, as well as frontline healthcare workers and people aged 70+."
He continued: "Our plan is based on vaccines ordered from Pfizer & Moderna as well as our estimated allocation from Astra Zeneca, which must be approved by the regulator. We are working on the basis of having 1.4 million + vaccines by the end of March.
"We are set to receive substantially more vaccines per month from April on, which will allow us to ramp up significantly and protect more people from Covid-19. We are receiving a pro rata allocation - like all EU countries - based on our population size.
"Timelines and delivery schedules are very fluid, but I hope this helps give a good indication of our position," he concluded.
Ireland is currently suffering from the worst rate of Covid-19 infection in the world, more than twice as high than the United States.
Ireland's health service, test and trace scheme and public hospitals are under immense strain with the sheer volume of people being confirmed to have the disease, and younger, healthier people becoming ill with the virus, some requiring hospitalisation.
As of 2pm yesterday, 1,582 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 146 are in ICU. There have been 156 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health said:
"While we are seeing the first glimmer of hope in respect of our daily case figures and positivity rates, the situation in hospitals and ICUs around the country continues to worsen day on day.
"We know that hospitalisations occur some weeks after a confirmed case is notified, and mortality after that again.
"That means we are unfortunately set for a period of time where the situation in our hospitals gets worse before it gets better."
According to research by Our World in Data, Ireland's seven-day rolling average is 1,394 cases per million, far ahead of the UK with 810, and Portugal on 735.