The HSE is as ‘confident as they can be’ that they’ll hit their COVID-19 vaccine targets over the coming weeks and months, according to Dr Colm Henry.
The HSE's Chief Clinical Officer said there have been shortfalls in recent weeks, but the outlook is now more positive as more vaccines become available and the producers ramp up production.
Weekly vaccine targets have been missed over the past two weeks - something that has been blamed on a shortfall in the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines.
This week, meanwhile, will see the last group of over 85s get their first dose, in around 30 GP surgeries where supplies were late to arrive last week.
The HSE is aiming to administer a first dose to everyone over 70 by the middle of April.
Medically vulnerable people at high risk from the virus will also start getting their vaccines this week, after they were moved up the priority list.
On Newstalk Breakfast, Dr Henry said a lot of different conditions are included in that group.
He said: “Kidney disease, heart disease, neurological disease, respiratory disease, cancer, a whole range of conditions…
“The work is underway to identify these people… and there are many groups within it.
“We the HSE will contact them - in the first instance we’re working through the people we can most easily identify through hospital networks.”
In terms of the recent shortfall, Dr Henry said AstraZeneca has pledged to ‘make good’ on a recent shortfall of around 75,000 vaccine doses.
He said: "What’s happened in the past few weeks… is that scheduled deliveries for particular vaccines - including most recently the AstraZeneca vaccine - did not arrive, and we got very short notice.
“We had developed our plans… and then we had to curtail them at short notice.
"That’s happened up to 20 times, or I think a little bit more now. Some [of those shortfalls] were not that significant… others more significant, such as those over the past two weeks.”
With the Government aiming to offer over 80% of adults their first vaccine dose by the end of June, Dr Henry said he’s confident about the ‘overall story’ as the vaccination programme ramps up.
He said the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be approved by European regulators this week, while Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are all increasing supply.
In terms of timelines, he said: “There’s over 500,000 over-70s… by the middle of April, we’ll complete the first dose vaccination of over-70s age group… that means four weeks later for the second dose.
“The evolving evidence is they get substantive protection even after the first dose.”
He said the vaccination of high-risk, medically vulnerable people “will progress right through the month of March”.