Taoiseach in staunch defense of Govt’s Covid jab campaign as he fumes there’s the magic tree we can pick vaccines off.’
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TAOISEACH Micheal Martin launched a staunch defense of the Government’s Covid-19 jab campaign, as he fumed: “There’s no magic tree out there that we can pick vaccines off.”
It comes as Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said Europe’s vaccine delay dilemmas would not slow down a modest reopening of society, with the Government due to meet at the end of this month to map out the next six weeks of easing restrictions.
Ireland also received a jab boost today as the European Commission reached a deal with drug giant Pfizer BioNTech to secure an extra four million vaccine doses.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen texted the Taoiseach today to say that Ireland would be getting 46,500 extra Pfizer doses by the end of the month as part of the new deal.
The Commission said it had secured the deal to help tackle “aggressive variants” creating Covid hotspots in the EU.
There are particular concerns about Tyrol in Austria, Nice, and Moselle in France, Bolzano in Italy, and Bavaria and Saxony in Germany, where the number of new infections is on the rise again.
The bonus Pfizer doses are a welcome boost to Ireland’s crippled vaccine rollout, with the HSE hamstrung when it comes to speeding up the campaign until delivery issues in the EU are fixed.
The frustration around Ireland’s slow vaccine rollout led to a fiery debate in the Dail today as TDs from across the House queued up to demand immediate action from the Government.
Your leader Peadar Toibin claimed Health Minister Stephen Donnelly acted like ‘Comical Ali’ — a former Minister in Iraq who regularly claimed Iraq was winning the war despite clear evidence of defeat.
Deputy Toibin said: “Night after night, the people of Ireland are being subjected to Stephen Donnelly like Comical Ali in front of them on the screens saying that the administration of the vaccine is going fine.
“Everybody knows it is not. It’s a billion-euro-a-month unmitigated disaster that’s happening in this country.”
Senior Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan supported the Opposition calls for action and claimed the Government should “seek out other ways and means” to secure vaccines.
The barrage of demands from TDs sparked an angry response from the Taoiseach, who called on Deputy Toibin to withdraw his remarks about Minister Donnelly and urged TDs to stop “blackguarding on this.”
He said: “I would like to say to Deputy Toibin that you should withdraw that remark. It’s completely unfounded, and the level is just not warranted.
“It’s not proportionate, it’s not balanced, and it’s doing a disservice. The vaccination program in this country is working.”
‘STOP THE BLACKGUARDING’
When TDs tried to interrupt, the Taoiseach fumed: “Ah, will you come off it please and allow me. Stop the blackguarding on this and your attempts.”
He said that “95 percent of everything that comes into the country is being injected within the week”, adding: “In terms of the global supply, there are three major continents that are manufacturing — China, Europe, and the US.
“There’s no magic tree out there that we can pick vaccines off. That’s an illusion.
“I spoke to the UK Prime Minister. We talked about vaccines. He volunteered to me that he would love to help Ireland, but his priority is to get his entire people vaccinated.”
The Taoiseach also revealed that he contacted the German government to enquire if they had any spare AstraZeneca jabs, and they said they were using all of their supply.
And the Fianna Fail leader revealed that he has spoken to drug companies in Ireland such as Pfizer and offered State aid to redevelop factories to produce jabs — but none of the firms took up the option.
Speaking on Newstalk, Health Minister Donnelly revealed how the Government tried to buy extra jabs from AstraZeneca. Still, the Minister claimed he was told: “there is no private sale, supply or distribution of their product.”
Minister Donnelly added: “We’ve advance purchased about 18.5million doses — it’s enough to vaccinate every man, woman, and child in the country twice.
“So the issue isn’t so much around supply; the issue is timing. Everybody wants to get this vaccine as quickly as possible.”
SLOW ROLLOUT WON’T STOP LIFT
Despite Europe’s vaccine delivery woes, the Tanaiste today claimed that the slow rollout of jabs would not prevent the Government from lifting some restrictions on April 5.
The Fine Gael leader said current projections would see Ireland take in 1.1million doses in April, 1.25milljobsjabs in May, and a further 1.68million in June.
Speaking on RTE, Varadkar said: “What we made very clear in the plan that we published a few weeks ago is that we would review the situation in the run-up to April 5.
“And we said that the only kind of restrictions that we could see being eased in April would be construction, the 5km rule, and allowing more activities outdoors, and that remains the case.
“Even if the number of vaccines is slightly behind schedule, we’re making excellent progress in terms of suppressing the virus.”
The Taoiseach told the Dail that the Government would review the Covid-19 situation at the end of this month and map out a plan for the six weeks into May.
Martin said: “We’re very much going in the right direction, so I think that the delay in the vaccine deliveries won’t prevent us from easing restrictions on April 5, but we only ever intended to do some very modest easing anyway.”
Minister Donnelly also claimed the Government would participate in EU talks over vaccine passports — that could see Irish — people traveling abroad again, with discussions currently at a very early stage.