The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are to be administered in Ireland in four acute hospitals on Tuesday.
Initially, the plan had been to go directly to nursing homes, but the National Immunisation Advisory Committee said it would prefer the first tranche be given in healthcare settings after some reports of anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction, in the UK and the United States.
The plan is to vaccinate 20,000 people a week from early January, with this increasing to 40,000 over the course of the month as supply comes on stream.
Where am I in the queue?
Older residents in long-term residential care facilities, such as nursing homes, and frontline healthcare workers will be prioritised.
After that will be: people aged 70 and above; other healthcare workers; people aged 65-69; key workers; people at risk due to medical conditions; and those living or working in crowded conditions.
This will be followed by people working in education; those aged 55-64; workers in other occupations important to the functioning of society; people aged between 18 and 54; and, finally, pregnant women and those under 18.
How will it work?
When each cohort is being vaccinated people will be required to register online or by phone, and will be given a scheduled appointment at a vaccination centre or other location.
Upon arrival the details of the patient will be confirmed, and they will fill in a consent form before receiving the injection into their upper arm.
They will be required to wait for 15 minutes to allow staff monitor for any immediate adverse reactions to the drug.
The required second dose of the vaccine will be administered 21 days later, with a reminder sent for the second appointment.
Should I expect any side effects?
The Health Service Executive has said common side effects may include muscle pains, headaches, tiredness or swelling in the upper arm.
Often people can develop a fever after a vaccination, particularly after the second dose. The fever can develop after 48 hours and normally lasts for about two days.
How will it work in nursing homes?
The HSE’s plan to inoculate the 70,000 residents and staff in the vulnerable nursing-home sector will begin on January 11th, with small numbers of vaccinations taking place in care homes before this date.
It is expected to take until the end of February to administer two doses of the vaccine across more than 580 facilities.
A team of vaccinators will arrive on site to deliver the vaccine in a dedicated area of the nursing home.
Smaller nursing homes with 30 residents or fewer will require one team of four vaccinators, with all doses delivered in a day, and the second dose 21 days later. Larger facilities with more than 120 residents will likely need three days to deliver the vaccine per dose.
Who will be administering the vaccines?
All vaccinators will be qualified healthcare professionals. While the process is relatively straightforward, the vaccinators are to receive specific training in the delivery of the Covid-19 vaccines.
In the initial phase when vaccine supplies are limited the programme will be led by 180 community healthcare vaccinators, who run the HSE schools vaccination programme. The HSE has said a further 1,500 vaccinators are to become available in the acute hospital system as the roll-out plan picks up pace.
What about GPs and pharmacists?
General practitioners and pharmacists will form part of the vaccination plan only after the initial phase covering frontline healthcare workers and residential care homes.
When large numbers of doses become available the second phase will see the vaccine delivered via GP clinics, pharmacies and mass vaccination centres.
Current Covid-19 swabbing centres may be repurposed as large vaccination sites, such as the National Exhibition Centre in Cloghran, north county Dublin.