One out of every 25 people booked for an appointment at a Covid-19 vaccination centre fails to turn up, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

But the “did not attend” (DNA) rate of under 4 per cent is lower than for regular medical appointments, a spokesman pointed out.

A total of 120,668 appointments were marked DNA on the HSE’s computers over the past month, out of 734,643 appointments made - equivalent to 16.4 per cent.

However, in about half of these cases - 57,500 - people had turned down an appointment and sought a different time, according to the spokesman.

When applying online for a vaccine appointment, people can select ‘new’ rather than accept the time, venue and vaccine they are offered. They are later offered a different time, which may involve vaccination with a different vaccine.

Some people have reported using this function on the application process to try to avoid being offered a specific vaccine, usually AstraZeneca.

According to the HSE spokesman, a further 14,000 people marked as DNA had rung its helpline rather than applying for a vaccine online.

A further 8,100 people had already received a vaccine dose through some other pathway in the rollout; the cyberattack on HSE IT systems has made it difficult to separate these figures from the global figure for DNAs.

The true level of DNAs is therefore 27,096, or 3.69 per cent of the overall figure, the spokesman said.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said on Thursday that overall take-up of Covid-19 vaccines had reached “astonishing” levels.

This included people in their 60s who were being offered the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said.

About 2.6 million people have received a vaccine dose: 1.6 million first doses and 800,000 second doses.

The uptake of vaccines is 98.4 per cent among people in their 80s, 95.5 per cent among those in their 70s and 89.1 per cent for those in their 60s. Among those in their 50s, where vaccination is continuing, the uptake so far is 78.5 per cent.

However, take-up has been low among pregnant women, who are being offered the vaccine ahead of their age cohort because of concerns over Covid-related inflammation of the placenta. Eleven cases of this condition have been recorded in Ireland, including seven stillbirths.

The uptake in different maternity units varies between 20 per and 60 per cent, with the median uptake at 35 per cent, according to the HSE.

About 3,800 pregnant women have been vaccinated under the programme since it began earlier this month, out of a total of 12,000 consultations within the pregnancy pathway.

The HSE has begun an information campaign around the benefits of the vaccine for pregnant women, who are being offered the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine between 14 and 36 weeks gestation. However, the process of vaccinating pregnant women has been hampered by the cyber-attack.

“The information we have so far shows Covid-19 vaccines do not have any negative effect on babies in the womb,” said Dr Peter McKenna, clinical director of the HSE women and infants health programme.

“We would strongly encourage people to consider taking up their vaccine when offered as it greatly reduces the chances of you becoming unwell from the Covid-19 virus.” 

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