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Chief Clinical Officer memo: COVID-19 Vaccine rollout

Memo from Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Colm Henry to HSE staff about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine

Published: 19 February 2021

To date the COVID-19 vaccine programme has administered 280,581 vaccines. We are close to completing the vaccination of the first of the Government’s allocation groups; people in long term residential care residents and the staff.  This is a significant milestone as we move to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We will offer the vaccine again to people in group 1 who were not able yet able to take the vaccine on the first round.

This week we started to roll out vaccination in the community starting with people who are 85 or older. People in that group will be called to clinics by their GPs   This will take about 3 weeks to complete and we will then move on to people who are 80 and older. The Minister for Health has directed that people in this group should be given one of the mRNA vaccines, that is the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, so the HSE is using the supplies of mRNA vaccine we have for that group of people.

The second group on the Government Allocation List is frontline healthcare workers. Many frontline healthcare workers have had the vaccine already. I want to assure you that we are committed to completing the rollout of the vaccine to all of you who are frontline healthcare workers as quickly as possible.

We are now seeing the third approved vaccine, the Astra Zeneca vaccine being delivered in larger quantities (45,600 received to date).  This enables us to roll out the Astra Zeneca vaccine to frontline health care workers right away.  With further supplies arriving throughout February, the majority of frontline healthcare workers should be able to receive their first dose in the coming weeks.  Three weeks after the first dose of the Astra Zeneca vaccine a person has a much-reduced risk of COVID-19 infection and of serious COVID illness.

Data just released on Astra Zeneca shows 76% vaccine efficacy and no decrease in immunity for the first 90 days after the first dose. Vaccine efficacy was 82% after the second dose with a 12-week interval between doses. Because this longer interval resulted in the highest vaccine efficacy we will be using that interval for people under 65.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is the first to report that it will not only protect against symptomatic COVID-19 disease but may also reduce the spread of the virus. So we know it can help to protect you, your family and the people you look after at work.  I encourage all health care workers to take a COVID-19 vaccine when it is offered.

For healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact, we will be in contact with you.

Please remember that you get NO protection from a vaccine the day you get your first jab. It takes 2 to 3 weeks for your immune system to work on the vaccine before you have any protection.  Even if you are fully vaccinated you must continue to follow the public health and infection prevention and control guidance, keep your distance, maintain hand hygiene standards and wear the appropriate PPE.  

The advice on this is starting to change in some countries for people who have had the vaccine but we have not decided to change anything yet in Ireland. We are looking at the evidence, we are keeping this under review but it’s important that we get this right so please keep up all the precautions until we get back to you.

The vaccine rollout programme is bringing our teams, our patients and our families much needed hope after what has been a very difficult year. 


Is cúis dóchnis dúinn go bhfuil muid ag dóileadh na roirsíní amach anois ar tid na tire ach ta sé níos tábhachtaí ná go gcloí muid go daingeann leis na srionta public.

Arís, mile buíochas ar uacht bhur saothar. Bígí dóchaidh agus Bígí Slán.

Go raibh maith agat.

Chief Clinical Officer, Dr Colm Henry