Taskforce plots Covid-19 vaccine rollout

New taskforce meets Monday to map strategy on accelerated roll out of Covid-19 vaccine

Efforts looking for a cure for SARS-CoV-2 were described as “disappointing” to date at the latest operational briefing from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer HSE, gave a brief update on the status of current treatments and care yesterday afternoon.

He said remdesivir had proved to be of some benefit in time to recovery but there was no benefit in terms of mortality. Hydroxychloroquine had not been deemed to be of any use, based on the assessment of researchers and convalescent plasma was of no proven benefit.

Nonetheless, he added that dexmethasone had made a difference, particularly for those who were oxygen-dependent, “right up to those who need ventilation”.

There was evidence that supportive care had improved as the average length of stay (ALOS) in hospital in March this year had been 17.6 days and was now down to 11 days.

This broke down into an ALOS of 15.7 days for cases without intensive care (ICU) in March which had now fallen to 9.4 days.

For those in ICU care, ALOS had been 28 days in March and had come down to 22 days.

Dr Henry reiterated the comparison for mortality in Ireland, at 21 per cent in ICU in the first phase, to some other countries where it had been double that amount in situations that they had to use sudden and outside traditional ICU settings.

Only two countries, Iceland and Finland had 14-day incidence rates better than the Irish rate.

He paid tribute to the work of infection prevention control teams countrywide as another group of “unsung heroes”.

Since August 1, there had been 2,826 cases of Covid-19 among healthcare staff which represented 6.8 per cent of the total.

Earlier on in the pandemic, healthcare workers had comprised a much larger proportion of the confirmed cases of Covid-19. Some of that was down to the fact that healthcare workers had been selectively tested as a priority group when testing capacity was reduced, but much also reflected “the improved protection and awareness among healthcare staff in healthcare settings”, he added.

In June, Prof Martin Cormican, National Clinical Lead for Healthcare Associated Infection and Antimicrobial Resistance (HCAI-AMRI) said they had put in place a weekly reporting system for hospitals, where every hospital reported the number of hospital-acquired Covid-19 cases based on ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) definitions. They believed that the rate of hospital-acquired Covid-19 infection had been one per 1,000 persons.

They were testing people as they went into hospitals and they were getting better at finding the disease and finding it faster. “We don’t wait for symptoms anymore, if we think we might have a problem, we go looking for it.”

Prof Cormican highlighted this week was World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020.

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid yesterday said the members of the taskforce on the Covid-19 vaccine were to meet for the first time next Monday, November 23, chaired by Prof Brian MacCraith, President of the Dublin City University.

The first role of the group is to develop a strategy and an implementation plan for the roll out of vaccines, “which obviously has to be done at a very accelerated pace”. The taskforce is to set out a governance structure and the various roles and responsibilities for various State agencies, the Department of Health and the HSE.


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