Irish Government giving up to 2m vaccines to poorer nations as EU pledges 200m more jabs for Africa

The Government plans to donate up to two million Covid-19 vaccines to developing countries.

ealth Minister Stephen Donnelly will bring a memo to the Cabinet today, seeking permission to begin the process of donating some of the country’s substantial stock to countries struggling to secure the jabs.

He will say Ireland is in a position where it can now donate between one and two million vaccines.

It comes as the EU pledges another 200m doses to African countries.

Central to the Irish plan will be donating at least one million vaccines to the Covax programme, which sees wealthier states provide shots to poorer counterparts.

Depending on the implementation of the booster programme, which will begin in the coming weeks, and delivery of pre-ordered doses, the Government may donate even more vaccines in the new year.

The Cabinet will also be told arrangements are being finalised for the donation and transfer of a surplus 350,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Africa.

Covax only accepts vaccines directly from manufacturers after they have been ordered by a government.

The Irish Government is working on bilateral arrangements with African countries because the AstraZeneca stock has already arrived here.

Ireland has around 18 million vaccines ordered, and seven million doses have been administered since the vaccination programme began this year.

It comes as the European Union this morning committed 200 million more coronavirus vaccine doses to Africa to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the new donation to be fully delivered by the middle of next year comes on top of 250 million already pledged and underscores the EU resolve to boost the challenge low-income nations are facing.

Ms Von der Leyen called it an “investment in solidarity and it is an investment also in global health.”

She said that on top of delivering 700 million doses to Europeans, the 27-nation bloc had also sent as many to a combined 130 nations.

“We are the only region in the world to achieve this,” she said in her State of the European Union address to the European Parliament.

“Our first and most urgent priority is to speed up global vaccination,” von der Leyen said. “With less than 1 percent of global doses administered to lower income countries, the scale of injustice and the level of urgency is obvious.”

Meanwhile, a national day of remembrance to mark the loss of loved ones who died during the pandemic – of all causes, not only Covid-19 – has been proposed.

Minister of State for Mental Health Mary Butler agreed yesterday with TDs and senators who called for a national day to remember those who died and whose relatives and friends suffered the sadness of not being able to attend their funerals.

“We do need a national day of mourning or commemoration – something to remember those who died in the last 18 months,” Ms Butler said.

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart suggested it be extended to those who also lost their jobs.

“We cannot put Covid away. It is something we need to ensure we don’t lose from our consciousness,” he said.

A total of 5,155 Covid-19 deaths had been reported in Ireland up to last Wednesday.

It comes as 1,181 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday. There were 309 patients in hospital, of whom 60 were in intensive care.

Separately, there is growing pressure on Mr Donnelly to get the Sláintecare plan back on track.

In a letter to him from members of the Sláintecare Implementation Advisory Council, they said they want clarity on whether a new chairperson to replace Professor Tom Keane – who resigned last week in frustration over slow progress – will be in their hands or the minister’s.

Mr Donnelly met last night with Laura Magahy, the Sláintecare executive who resigned along with Prof Keane.

The council members unanimously backed Prof Keane and accused the minister of stalling progress on the shake-up of the HSE into six regional bodies. Mr Donnelly is to meet with members of the council today.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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