Dáil debates

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Ceisteanna - Questions

National Risk Assessment

4:30 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

In response to Deputy Kelly's question, the Government decided today to procure additional Moderna and Janssen vaccines for 2022. I can get the specific volumes for the Deputy. That is in addition to what we have already agreed in respect of Pfizer. This is all part of the European Union pre-purchase agreement framework for 2022 and 2023. The Health Emergency and Preparedness Response Authority, HERA, was established by Europe some time ago and has been preparing for the speedier manufacture and production of vaccines to deal with variants in the future, but also to have an expanded provision of vaccines for teenagers and children if authorised by the authorising authorities. NIAC is currently looking at a vaccination programme for teenagers and children. Suffice to say, it is our view that we need to purchase a sufficiency of vaccines to take us through 2022 and 2023. Europe has already reached a deal with Pfizer to provide 900 million vaccines over the next two years. We have opted in to those pre-purchase agreements and options. It is good pre-planning by Europe. We will add any surplus vaccines to our current support for COVAX and for other countries getting vaccinated. Europe is also providing €1 billion to support and build manufacturing capacity to develop vaccines on the African continent.

Deputy Devlin makes a very fair point on investment in the Defence Forces, which we are improving and increasing. He is correct about the consultations on the next cybersecurity strategy, which had to be delayed because of Covid-19, but it is resuming. I outlined earlier the work of the commission on the Defence Forces, which is very comprehensive and in line with the programme for Government. It will also feed into the pay review body, which is also provided for in the programme for Government.

In response to Deputy Boyd Barrett, I would argue that while some of the postgraduate programmes in medicine are much more expensive than the undergraduate programmes we provided additional places across the board at third level last year and we will do the same this year. We will do the same in further education and we will increase apprenticeship places as well.

In response to Deputy Paul Murphy's point, the Government has been and is concerned about the Delta variant. We have been monitoring it very carefully. We set up a special group within the Government comprising senior officials to keep a very close eye on the progress and trajectory of the variant.

The United Kingdom has slowed down, although its opening was far more advanced than our opening. It has not stopped what it has already done but it has certainly not gone ahead with nightclubs and the ending of social distancing, for example, which I always thought was a bit ambitious. It has stopped that because of the higher transmissibility of the Delta variant.

We are going to have to examine this. We will take the public health advice. The CMO and his team are examining this. The most recent data indicate a higher incidence of the Delta variant now in Ireland, which is a matter of significant concern. We have to look at this on a number of fronts in terms of our vaccination strategy and in terms of ventilation, absolutely. We will keep the whole reopening strategy under close review, as we always do, and, as we have said all along, everything we do is subject to ongoing public health advice.


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