Ireland’s premier has hailed the country’s “brilliant” Covid-19 vaccine programme after its full vaccination rate overtook the UK’s.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin praised those involved in the rollout after Ireland reached the figure of 72.4% of adults fully vaccinated. In the UK the rate was 72.1% on Saturday.
More than 5.8 million jabs have been administered in Ireland to date.
It marks a significant turnaround for a country that experienced delays in the early stages of the vaccine programme associated with EU supply issues.
In the spring there was speculation the UK might even move to donate surplus vaccines to Ireland later in the year to help it address the shortfall in jabs.
Since then the country’s rollout has accelerated significantly.
“The vaccine rollout is continuing at great pace,” tweeted Mr Martin.
“Today we edged ahead of our nearest neighbours – a brilliant effort by everyone involved. Ireland: 72.4% of adults fully vaccinated UK: 72.1% of adults fully vaccinated.”
The vaccine rate surpassed the UK’s on the same day thousands of people got jabbed at new walk-in vaccine centres.
Ireland also reached another less positive milestone on Saturday as the number of cases reported in the country since the pandemic began reached 300,000.
Dozens of walk-in centres are operating all over Ireland over the bank holiday weekend.
Queues were witnessed at many of the centres through Saturday as people took the opportunity to get jabbed.
Chief executive of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) Paul Reid commended the uptake.
He said 800 people were vaccinated at the City West in Dublin within 90 minutes of the centre opening on Saturday morning.
Mr Reid said Ireland was on the “final countdown” to protection from Covid-19.
“We’ve been ‘blown away’ by attendances at walk in clinics,” he tweeted.
“Young people in Ireland have been to the fore of changing this country for the better. Now they’ve come out in numbers to protect themselves & us. And we’re now ahead of the UK for % of adults fully vaccinated!”
The 1,427 new confirmed cases reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Saturday took the total cases since the start of the pandemic to 300,000.
There were 164 Covid-19 patients in hospital on Saturday, 26 of whom were in ICU.
“However, today we have also seen how solidarity continues to be the hallmark of our response with young people across the country lining up to get vaccinated, both to protect themselves and to play their part in protecting the community.
“I strongly urge anyone eligible for a vaccine to come forward and avail of the opportunity as soon as possible.”
The walk-in centres run by the HSE are open to anyone aged 16 and over who has yet to receive a first dose.
Those attending will receive a Pfizer jab.
No appointment is necessary but people wishing to get vaccinated will need to produce photo ID and their Personal Public Service (PPS) number.
Health officials have said children aged 12-16 should be offered a vaccination in August.