The HSE has written to nursing homes highlighting possible risks to frail, elderly people from the vaccine and stating some people may not be suitable vaccine candidates.
The letter, signed by HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, was circulated on Sunday to nursing homes and some homes forwarded the letter to families.
It refers to an update on Friday from the Norwegian Medicines Agency and the Norwegian National Institute of Public Health following the deaths of 23 people, of which 13 have been assessed.
It states: “The reports suggest that common adverse reactions to mRNA vaccines such as fever and nausea may have contributed to a fatal outcome in some very frail elderly individuals.”
It refers to the “comfort and dignity” typically part of palliative care, and stresses the need for individual decisions to be taken for each resident.
The letter states: “… given that the benefit from vaccination only begins about 10 -14 days following the first dose and full protection is not achieved until 7-14 days following the second dose of vaccine currently in use, it is not appropriate to vaccinate people if their expected duration of life is less than that for the vaccines to take effect.”
The HSE letter highlights the need to delay the jab for anyone who has a fever or other temporary illness.
Email sent by nursing homes this morning. @Sineadmcgar @MlMcNamaraTD @tadhgdaly1 @paulreiddublin @MaryButlerTD— residents are our family- Care Champions (@2x2x2V) January 18, 2021
It is most important that correct decisions are made for our family members. There has been to much devastation already in our nursing homes pic.twitter.com/0no2vlH7FH
Majella Beatty, from the Care Champions advocacy group, said: “It is very worrying for families to get this, they are worried about what to do now. They are worried too to open their mouth in case they are labelled as anti-vaxxers and that is not the case.”
Ms Beatty said there needs to be better communication around which underlying health conditions could make the vaccine risky for some people.
She called on the HSE to support nursing homes with enough staff to allow for proper communication with families and residents.