There have been no discussions at Government level about making it mandatory to take a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Minister for Health.
Stephen Donnelly was speaking after it emerged that around 30% of people in Ireland would either refuse the vaccine or are still undecided.
Meanwhile, the Government hopes to begin vaccinations early next year, with officials hoping to have around one million of the most vulnerable people vaccinated by spring.
Speaking to On the Record with Gavan Reilly, the health minister said there are no plans to make the vaccine mandatory.
“Several EU countries have introduced legislation on mandatory vaccination,” he said. “We haven’t and I can tell you there has been no conversation at Government level about doing that.
“My strong preference with it is that it would be voluntary and actually, if you look at the front page of the Sunday Business Post today, there is very strong proportion of people who say they are in favour of taking the vaccine.
“We have just rolled out the biggest flu vaccination programme in the history of the State and indeed, if we could get our hands on more flu vaccine, people are looking to take it and there has also been very strong uptake on the HPV vaccine.
“So, there is this anti-vaxx movement; a lot of what I have seen is misinformation and I think it is very dangerous but I think the vast amount of people see that for what it is and I think people are well-disposed to taking the vaccine when it comes out.”
The National Vaccine Taskforce is currently preparing for the nationwide rollout of the vaccine – and is due to submit its implementation plan to Government on Friday, December 11th.
He said three major companies hope to get market authorisation in the coming weeks, with rollout “potentially early in the New Year.”
“I would say December is unlikely to be honest with you but quite soon,” he said.
“It is very heart-warming because, if we go back even a few months, the experts were saying it would be mid-next year, potentially the end of next year, or indeed three or four years before we might see things.”
Minister Donnelly said Ireland is currently signed up to receive four vaccines – and he is bringing a memo to Cabinet on a fifth next week.
“Ireland is certainly very much playing our part in making sure we are involved,” he said.
“We have advance purchase of these vaccines and for various of the ones, we have advanced purchase of several million doses so it is looking good.”
- Some vaccinations in January
- Advance purchase from 4 suppliers, and a 5th this week
- No plans to make it mandatory
- Would take “a year” for full mathematical study to confirm impact of wet pubs, but EY data strong enough to act on
- Rules “anomalies” unavoidable
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) November 29, 2020
The Government aims to make the vaccine free of charge for all citizens and Minister Donnelly admitted the State would be liable if there are any unforeseen problems down the road.
“It is the State [that would be liable],” he said, “Ireland, as with every other European country, is part of the advanced purchase agreement and we have to indemnify the companies.”
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