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Number of hospitals could increase at ‘significant rate’ as Covid cases increase

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The CEO of the Health Service Executive (HSE) warned that the number of hospitals could increase at “a significant rate very quickly” as cases of Covid-19 increase.

There were 1,377 new infections confirmed on Saturday, up from 204 the day before, the highest daily figure since the end of January.

Almost 65% of Irish people are fully vaccinated, with 77% having received at least one vaccine.

As the community’s positivity rate rose from 8.4% on Friday to 6.7% on Saturday, Paul Reid says the increase in the number of cases could put hospitals under pressure.

“We are now monitoring the increase in cases very closely in the coming days,” he said.

“Fortunately, we are coming out of a much weaker base in terms of hospitalizations.

“Nonetheless, if the cases continue to increase this would be what we are watching very closely, hospitalizations will increase at a significant rate very quickly.”

60% of Irish adults fully vaccinated as rollout reaches ‘milestone’

The vaccine rollout in Ireland has reached a milestone with more than 60% of the adult population now fully vaccinated, the chair of the vaccine working group said.

As of Monday, this will increase further with people between the ages of 18 and 24 being able to opt for an Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine if they do not wish to wait for a different vaccine.

So far, more than 75% of adults have received at least one dose of any vaccine with just over 5.1 million doses of vaccine given in mass vaccination centers, general practitioners’ offices and pharmacies.

The HSE plans to complete the administration of the second doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine this weekend for people in their 60s. Vaccination is also continuing for vulnerable people who are at very high or high risk of contracting the virus.

The chairman of the high-level working group on the vaccination against Covid-19, Professor Brian MacCraith, described Friday as: “a very important day in the deployment of the vaccine with three important milestones achieved”.

So far, more than 75% of adults have received at least one dose of any vaccine with just over 5.1 million doses of vaccine given in mass vaccination centers, general practitioners’ offices and pharmacies. This includes over 100,000 doses administered at the Cork Town Hall vaccination center.

Professor MacCraith said it shows significant progress, but there is still a long way to go in the deployment, he said.

Immunologists have previously estimated that Ireland should vaccinate at least 80% of the adult population to achieve collective immunity and protection.

Friday saw the vaccine portal open to people aged 25 or older. Those over 25 can register to receive a Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. These are mRNA type vaccines.

Currently, the wait between registering and obtaining a vaccine with one of these mRNA vaccines is “three to four weeks”.

This option will soon open to the youngest, announced the HSE.

However, people aged 18-24 can choose the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine option from Monday through the portal.

Head of the Vaccine Working Group, Professor Brian MacCraith.  File Image: Gareth Chaney / Collins
Head of the Vaccine Working Group, Professor Brian MacCraith. File Image: Gareth Chaney / Collins

Signing up could mean getting a first dose this month, instead of waiting until August. Studies in the UK have shown that both vaccines provide over 90% protection against the Delta variant after two doses.

The HSE advised, “If you don’t register, you will automatically receive a Moderna or Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. People aged 18 to 34 can also opt for the Janssen vaccine in pharmacies, as can those over 50.

However, on Saturday, Irish Pharmacy Union General Secretary Darragh O’Loughlin said he expects supplies to decline for the remainder of July. Janssen vaccine deliveries are expected to increase again from early August, he told Newstalk.

The HSE website provides information on the potential risks of having a rare type of blood clot after taking the Oxford / AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines for those under 50, which everyone is encouraged to read.

The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine supply remains the largest with 3.3 million doses administered, followed by Oxford / AstraZeneca at 1.1 million doses and Moderna at 461,540 doses administered.

The single-injection Janssen vaccine has been administered to 149,514 people through Friday.

Globally, the Our World in Data tracker shows that 26.1% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. However, that drops to just 1% of people in low-income countries, he found.

A total of 3.61 billion doses have been administered worldwide, of which 30.46 million are now administered daily.

Demand for Covid-19 tests is growing rapidly across the country, with community testing centers performing a record 15,000 tests on Friday.

Niamh O ‘Beirne, national HSE manager for testing and tracing, said on Saturday: “Yesterday has been the busiest day so far in this wave for our community testing centers.” She said Saturday “stays busy” especially in the Dublin area.

Ms O’Beirne said the HSE is making additional test slots available for online booking to meet demand.

This means more people don’t have to wait for a GP appointment but can refer themselves if they suspect they might have Covid-19.