Labour leader Alan Kelly has called for a permanent minister and task force to make decisions quickly on the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland.

Labour leader Alan Kelly has called for a permanent minister and task force to make decisions quickly on the rollout of a Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland. 
He said that due to a range of issues from logistics, procurement, storage and IT, “somebody needs to be sitting at the Cabinet table permanently”, adding, there cannot be “red tape or bureaucracy” delaying matters. 
Mr Kelly said that decisions around vaccines will save lives, businesses, jobs and will change society and “we have to make sure we maximise this and get it right”. 
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said UK has a “Covid minister” as have France, Denmark and Finland. 
A rollout of any vaccine in Ireland will follow approval from the European Medicines Agency, which said it will meet on 29 December “at the latest” to consider emergency approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 
Yesterday, the Cabinet approved an advance purchase agreement for 875,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Moderna. 
It is expected the doses will be delivered early in the new year, as soon as there is EMA approval. 
Ireland is already signed up to four other vaccines. 
The UK today became the first country in the world to approve a Covid-19 vaccine after its Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine for use. 
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The MHRA’s chief executive said the way the regulator worked is “equivalent to all international standards.” 
June Raine said the MHRA had used provisions of European law, which apply until the end of the year when the Brexit transition period ends. 
“We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law, which exist until (1 January). Our progress has been totally dependent on the availability of data in our rolling review and the rigorous assessment and independent advice we have received,” she said. 
Professor of Public Health at the University of Edinburgh Linda Bauld said the MHRA is regarded internationally as an incredibly robust medicines regulator. 
She said the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will be a challenge because it has to be stored at very low temperatures, but said she is very optimistic that healthcare staff will be vaccinated by the end of this year. 
Prof Bauld said it will be “well into next year” before it is widely administered, and said she hoped the news of a vaccine rollout does not result in a change of behaviour as public health measures must continue. 
Meanwhile, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin Kingston Mills has warned that three of the vaccines that have been reported on so far do not have data for children and the Pfizer vaccine has limited data on the over 12s. 
Also speaking on Today with Claire Byrne, Prof Mills said if herd immunity is to be achieved then the entire population will need to be vaccinated, including children. 
He said whether a vaccine that has not been tested in the population is given to children is an ethical issue and one that the regulatory agencies will have to look at. 
WHO tightens guidelines on mask-wearing in Covid-19 areas 
Separately, the World Health Organization has said people living in areas with where Covid-19 is spreading should always wear masks in shops, workplaces and schools that lack adequate ventilation. 
If they cannot maintain physical distancing of at least one metre, people in those indoor locations - including children and students aged 12 or over – should also wear a mask even if the spaces are well ventilated, it said in a tightening of its guidelines. 
They should also wear masks outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained, it said. 
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said the recommendations were among the biggest changes to its guidance on mask-wearing, and updated advice from June. 
It also advised “universal masking” in all health care facilities including in common areas such as cafeterias and staff rooms. 
Health workers could wear N95 masks if available when caring for Covid-19 patients, but the only proven protection is when they are doing aerosol-generating procedures, the WHO said.