The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine will be delayed by supply and availability rather than the consent process.
Ireland will begin administering the Pfizer/BioNTech jab to patients tomorrow, three days after the first doses arrived here.
It means the country will be the second last in the EU to begin its programme, even though there are nearly 10,000 doses in cold storage.
The first jabs will be administered at four hospitals around the country – Beaumont and St James’s in Dublin along with Cork and Galway University hospitals.
HSE Chief Paul Reid has warned that a “complex consent process” must be completed before the vaccine can be administered to the elderly and vulnerable and it is believed that this played a part in delaying the rollout programme.
On Late Breakfast with Mark Cagney this morning, Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said the HSE cannot legally administer the vaccine to anyone until it receives their informed consent.
“It is very important that the government get this right,” he said. “That they give all the transparent information to people about all the risks as well as all the benefits of the vaccine.
“That information is available from the companies and from the clinical trial data.
“The public obviously are not going to read scientific papers but they can be given pamphlets which will have a synopsis in layman’s language of the trial results in terms of what side-effects were seen and what the benefits are.”
He said transparency is key to the success of the vaccine programme.
“There are huge benefits that is the thing that has to be said with these vaccines,” he said.
“90% of people – 95% in the cases of Pfizer – will not get COVID if they are vaccinated. That is what the clinical trials show so that is a huge, huge benefit.
“There were some side-effects. People got some injection site reactions; some people got a slight fever. These are all transient events that are often association with vaccination.
“They need to be spelled out to the public and transparency is key to all of this. Making sure that everyone knows about any potential issues and then if people get a slight reaction, they will know that was common enough based on the clinical trial and it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Swine flu vaccine
He said the Government is likely to be particularly cautious because a small number of young people experienced unforeseen side-effects from the swine flu vaccine in 2009.
“Around 80 young people in Ireland got narcolepsy as a result of the vaccination and that ended up in the courts,” he said.
“One of the issues in the cases was around informed consent.”
"Supply and availability"
He said the widespread rollout of the vaccine will be mainly delayed by “supply and availability.”
“We have currently got quite a small number of doses, only 10,000, so we are going to get through that quite quickly,” he said.
“Pfizer just don’t have enough of this vaccine for all the countries that want it yet. They are going to be cranking up the manufacturing now and hopefully that will be solved in the weeks and months ahead.”
Professor Mills said logistical issues will increase as more doses arrive into the country – with over three million doses due from Pfizer and Moderna alone this year.
You can listen back here: