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Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker: What’s available in the Republic of Ireland and what else is coming?

It has been almost a year since the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the Republic of Ireland. Since then, over 200,000 people have been diagnosed in the State, and more than 4,000 people have died.

Globally, over 100 million people have been diagnosed and over 2.4 million have died since the virus was first identified in China in December 2019.

Scientists have been racing to develop a vaccine that would bring an end to the pandemic, and there are now 64 different vaccines in clinical development, with another 173 in preclinical development, according to the World Health Organisation.

Three of these have been authorised for use in the EU – one from AstraZeneca, one from BioNTech-Pfizer and another from Moderna.

The EU has put in place purchase agreements with four other vaccines once they are approved for use – Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson (Jannsen) and Curevac. The bloc is also in talks with two other vaccine producers – Novavax and Valneva.

Ireland, along with all other EU member states, will get a proportional amount of every vaccine that is approved for use by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) according to its population. Ireland is in line to get 14 million doses of at least five different vaccines during 2021, more than enough to vaccinate the entire country.

How many have been vaccinated here?

As of February 18th, a total of 205,955 people in the Republic of Ireland had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 120,520 had received their second dose.

Some 132,141 of these vaccines had gone to people in long term residential care facilities, while 186,751 had gone to frontline healthcare workers and 7,456 had gone to people over the age of 70.

Globally, over 205 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have been administered.

But how do these other vaccines work, and when will they be approved for use here? Have there been any reported side effects? And when can you expect to receive a vaccine?

The Irish Times Vaccine Tracker will be updated daily as the country embarks on the largest inoculation programme in the history of the State.

Leading vaccines in the pipeline for Ireland

Storage: Must be kept in a freezer at – 70°C.

Overview: Developed by New York-based Pfizer and German company BioNTech this vaccine has a brand name of Comirnaty. It uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which has instructions for producing a protein from Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The person’s immune system recognises this protein as foreign and produces antibodies and activates T-cells (white blood cells) to attack it, giving them immunity. The vaccine will last for six months when stored at -70C, and five days when stored at between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius. The EU has approved the withdrawal of six doses from each vial.

Side effects: Common side effects (occurring in more than 1 in 10 people) included pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills and fever. Severe allergic reactions occurred in a very small number of cases.

How many will Ireland get? 5.4 million doses by the end of 2021.

Storage: Must be kept in a freezer at – 20°C.

Overview: Developed by Boston-based company Moderna, this vaccine is manufactured for EU states at partner plants in Switzerland, France and Spain before being distributed across the continent. Like the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, it uses mRNA technology to produce a Sars-CoV-2 protein, which the body then attacks to give immunity. It will last for up to six months when stored at – 20°C. The first Moderna vaccine was given in Ireland on January 16th.

Side effects: Common side effects (occurring in more than 1 in 10 people) included pain and swelling at the injection site, tiredness, chills, fever, swollen or tender lymph nodes under the arm, headache, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting. Less common was redness, hives and rash at the injection site. Severe allergic reactions occurred in a very small number of cases.

How many will Ireland get? 870,000 doses by the end of 2021.

Stated efficacy: 76-82% according to AstraZeneca, 60% according to the EMA

Overview: The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was thought of as a potential game-changer because it can be transported and stored at 2 degrees to 8 degrees for up to six months, making it much easier to move around and administer. It is also much cheaper, costing about $3-4 per shot, compared with $20 for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, with the former being made on a not-for-profit basis for the duration of the pandemic.

It is based on a harmless chimp cold virus that cannot grow inside human cells. Scientists have tweaked this virus so that it carries genetic material containing the instructions for a protein of the coronavirus. Once the vaccine has been administered, our bodies produce the coronavirus protein, triggering an immune response.

Two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart, are needed to offer the best protection against Covid. However, a dosing error led to the serendipitous finding that when clinical trial participants were given half a dose followed by a full dose, the vaccine had a higher efficacy than when participants were given two full doses, with 90 per cent efficacy in the former case and 62 per cent efficacy in the latter. This led AstraZeneca to announce in November a new global trial of the vaccine with the half dose/full dose regime. Read from source….