Ireland’s journey from pandemic hotspot to vaccine poster child


Covid-19 vaccine updates

After endless months of sucking at home, I landed in Ireland from New York to wait for the pandemic to end in mid-February. Dublin Airport was dark and deserted. It was the same for much of the rest of the country, I would find out quickly.

January was the apocalypse of the pandemic in Ireland. Infections exceeded 8,000 per day like a free for all at Christmas, socialization collided with the contagiousness of the Delta variant. The country’s underfunded health service requisitioned resources private sector and narrowly avoided running out of intensive care beds. Many, many people have died.

By the time I arrived on Valentine’s Day, the worst of the crisis had passed but its shadow weighed heavily. In the darkest days of winter, when the sun rises after eight o’clock and sets at five o’clock, the people of Ireland were confined less than 5 km from their home, except when traveling for essential reasons. Police checkpoints spanned country roads and two-lane urban roads to make sure we didn’t get lost any further.

Stores selling everything but the bare essentials were closed. Basically included alcohol, but not, controversially, children’s shoes. Restaurants, pubs, churches, libraries have all been closed for months. It was forbidden to leave the country for non-essential reasons; a police checkpoint at the entrance to Dublin’s only airport fined the provocateur.

The rules have relaxed over the months, but very gradually. I was in the countryside for eight weeks before seeing my parents, who live 100 miles from my base in Dublin. Ireland was the last country in Europe to reopen its pubs and restaurants for domestic service, and even then access was limit to fully vaccinated people and to those who could prove a recent recovery from Covid or a negative test.

Friends say the brutality of the winter lockdown and the desire to avoid a repeat of this trauma is one of the factors driving Ireland’s transformation from the Covid black spot I arrived in to the vaccine poster child I’m leaving now, a country where over 90% of adults are expected to have received at least one injection by next week.

Brian MacCraith, the former president of Dublin City University who heads the Irish Vaccine Task Force, said public confidence in vaccines has been bolstered by the country’s caution in to suspend for safety reasons earlier in the year.

“I think this is an important factor in terms of comparing Ireland to other nations,” he said of Ireland’s success in fully immunizing a higher percentage of its population. than the EU and the United States.

Ireland is stepping up its vaccination campaign.  Graph showing% of total population fully immunized

Delays in the deployment of vaccines, due in part to suspensions but above all to problems of March and April, forced rapid revisions to the program and drew much criticism. It went on for tough months, but had a useful side effect.

“Every time a new age group was announced there was huge excitement, and the fact that there was a shortage probably helped,” MacCraith says.

Friends and acquaintances in the Republic of Ireland rushed to sign up as soon as their age groups were called. Those in Northern Ireland and the United States, where vaccines were plentiful much earlier, wondered if they could be forced to take them.

Locals cite various other reasons for the high uptake of vaccines in Ireland. They include the absence of the kind of far-right political force that has fueled anti-vaccine movements in other countries and a strong sense of community, as well as high levels of ‘common sense’ trust in authorities. and the people who want to do the right thing. .

Linking vaccines to entry into the domestic hotel industry has also been an important factor, especially for young adults, some say.

Whatever the causes, pictures teenagers stand in line for vaccines outside walk-in centers are quickly becoming as iconic as images of the deserted streets of Ireland from the early days of the pandemic. Almost 40,000 of them have been vaccinated in the past two weekends alone.

The scenes in these centers are hopeful and uplifting, with smiles stretching as long as an Irish summer evening. As my temporary post ends, it is Ireland that I hope to remember long after the desolation of our pandemic winter has passed.

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