Almost half the vaccines given in Ireland were done locally by a GP — with thousands more benefiting as of this week, a Cork GP has said.
Dr Nuala O’Connor is clinical lead for Covid-19 with the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) and a member of the High-Level Covid-19 Vaccination Taskforce.
She said: “We all know the pathway out of this pandemic is to vaccinate everybody as quickly as possible. That is what we are trying to do in general practice.”
Most over-70s received vaccines from their family doctor or at a nearby GP hub. By Sunday over 584,000 vaccines were delivered this way according to the ICGP.
From this week, people in Group 4 and some in Group 7 on the priority list will also get local shots.
This includes 88,000 people with diabetes, obesity, chronic respiratory disease or Prader Willi syndrome.
Some cancer sufferers are also due a local jab while others are done in hospitals.
Dr O’Connor said: “Each practice is at a slightly different stage, I think that is a bit confusing for patients. And people are asking why was my neighbour called but you are telling me you don’t have the vaccine yet for me.”
A key issue was the “staggered start” to the roll-out. Deliveries to GPs now arrive every two weeks from the individual start dates.
Dr O’Connor’s own practice was affected by shortages with a three-week plan stretching to four. But she is confident now this will not happen again.
Pfizer on Monday announced a large extra delivery to the EU. This means about one million extra doses to Ireland this year in addition to 545,000 extra confirmed last week.
Many people phoned GPs with questions about the AstraZeneca vaccine Vaxzevria, she said.
This is being used for people aged 60 to 69, and appointments can be booked online or by phone with the HSE.
It is not possible to choose another vaccine as the number of doses for each practice is matched to precise orders, Dr O’ Connor said.
“I do think it is understandable people might take a little step back. But for people of any age, the benefits of getting the vaccine far outweigh the risks of catching Covid disease,” she said.