GAA stadia and universities to be used for vaccine rollout

GAA stadia and universities to be used for vaccine rollout

HSE chief executive Paul Reid: Multiple centres can be used for vaccine provision. Picture:Gareth Chaney

Events spaces, conference centres, universities and GAA stadiums are to be used for the mass distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, with the first jabs now expected to be administered just days after Christmas.

The Government's vaccination strategy outlines how up to 14 million doses of approved vaccines will be distributed — hospital doctors, GPs, nurses and pharmacists are all set to be trained to deliver the vaccine.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said that Citywest Hotel campus, Dublin, the National Exhibition Centre in Swords, Co Dublin, and stadiums such as Croke Park and Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork, were examples of places which could be used as mass vaccination centres when the vaccine roll-out ramps up. 

Vaccines will be distributed in long-term care facilities, acute hospitals, mass vaccination centres, before moving to GP surgeries and community pharmacies.

Professor Brian McCraith, who chaired the Government's high-level vaccine taskforce, has held conversations with a number of universities about their involvement in the establishment of mass vaccination centres.

I’ve spoken with the presidents of NUI Galway, Waterford IT, University of Limerick, and UCC in the past number of days, and all have expressed great support for the concept of being able to assist in the development of mass vaccination centres.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has hailed the vaccination strategy as a "moment of hope and light", which will play a central role in our exit from the pandemic.

The first doses of the vaccines could be given to people before the end of this year. 

This is due to the European Medicines Agency bringing forward a meeting to assess the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to December 21. 

If approved next Monday, the European Commission could issue a market authorisation for the vaccine on Tuesday or Wednesday. Within seven to 10 days, vaccinations could be carried out in Ireland.

Mr Donnelly said that while the quantities of these vaccinations would be low, it would be a "great way to end what has been a very dark year".

Over time it will allow us to reopen our society and to reconnect in the ways we once took for granted.

Pregnancy warnings

However, there were warnings that pregnant women may not be able to avail of the vaccine and that those who are planning to become pregnant may have to wait a number of months.

Health Products Regulatory Authority, (the medicines regulator) chief executive Lorraine Nolan said that new data will become available next year which may change the thinking on the effects of the vaccine on pregnancy, but until then more study was needed.

"In relation to people looking at having a baby or undergoing fertility treatments, the advice for the moment would be if you’re going to be vaccinated to wait a period of time and then to progress [your treatment] then.”

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said that it was too early to say whether those who have not been vaccinated could be denied entry to mass gatherings or, for example, air travel.

"The people who are vaccinated will be protected against the severe effects of this virus, that's what we're offering. 

"The likes of airlines will make their own decisions."

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