Vaccine rollout confusion as non-frontline workers receive jab

Vaccine rollout confusion as non-frontline workers receive jab

The HSE had not yet issued guidance for excess doses. Picture: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

There is growing anger and confusion over the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine after it emerged the family of a second hospital's staff and construction workers at a Kerry hospital received the vaccine ahead of frontline workers.

The Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin confirmed that two family members of staff, believed to be in a vulnerable group had received excess doses of vaccines.

That came a day after the Master of the Coombe Hospital confirmed 16 family members of staff, including two of his children, had been vaccinated. 

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris reacted by saying: “There aren’t spare vaccines in Ireland. We need to get to the bottom of this."

Both incidents happened before the HSE issued guidance to hospitals on excess doses.

The guidance says if the priority frontline workers aren't available to get the vaccine a standby list of other frontline healthcare workers later in the vaccination sequence should be created and recipients randomly selected from the lists. Other healthcare workers should then be given the next priority.

The administration of the vaccine to 10 builders working in University Hospital Kerry was ahead of psychiatric healthcare workers in the community and residents and patients at a mental health facility in the county, a meeting of Kerry County Council was told yesterday.

The hospital confirmed the builders' vaccines but only after the roll-out of the vaccine to the priority group of frontline staff.

"These workers are required to work in clinical areas such as ED to carry out some of their work and would have also be required to carry out their work in areas within the Covid pathway of the hospital," it said.

'Proper management'

Labour TD Sean Sherlock said he has concerns about how the vaccine rollout is happening in some Munster hospitals, saying that a clearer system was needed.

"In the current vaccine round, there needs to be a system of recording every vial to ensure that, once a batch is delivered, it can be traced. We can't have a situation where family members of doctors receive the vaccine ahead of other frontline staff. 

The minister needs to take ownership of this and start managing this properly.

A spokeswoman for the South/South West Hospital Group did not directly respond to queries on whether non-frontline staff received the vaccine.

“Vaccine clinics have administered available supply on a continuous basis and as of last Friday over 21,000 staff had been vaccinated across the South/South West Hospital Group.”

Frustration on frontline

Healthcare workers have expressed frustration at those not working directly with patients on the frontline receiving vaccinations before them. They have also questioned how recipients of the vaccine are being recorded.

Meanwhile doubts have been cast over the partial reopening of schools this week after the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation last night called on the Department of Education to reconsider plans to resume in-school special education on Thursday.

The union said teachers' "grave safety concerns" had not been adequately addressed by public health or by the Government. It central executive committee is due to meet again today as is Fórsa, the union that represents SNAs. It has said serious concerns remain over childcare and vulnerable staff members.

Lack of clarity about sequencing plan 

Siptu’s health division representative Kevin Figgis has warned about the “levels of confusion” about the sequencing plan for the roll-out of the vaccine.

His members had told him of vaccination clinics being held within hospitals where some staff were turned away.

Mr Figgis gave one example of staff from a mental health facility which was co-located on the site of an acute hospital.

When the staff heard of the vaccination clinic they went to the acute hospital but were turned away.

There was a lack of clarity in the sequencing document over how it should be rolled out, he said.

Trade unions were engaging with the HSE on the roll-out and when they raised such issues they were addressed, he said.

It was the HSE that determined the priority in the sequencing, he said and his concern was that staff who were in direct contact with patients were not as high in the sequence as they should be.

Media reports in recent days of leftover vaccines being given to non-health workers did not instil confidence, he said.

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