The HSE has moved to upgrade its vaccination portal and booking system in a move to resolve the issue of multiple appointments and no-shows.
The issue had emerged in recent days and was even the subject of a testy discussion in the Dáil where the Taoiseach said large numbers of appointments were not being taken up.
It comes as the HSE has this morning had to warn people not to attend the walk-in booster clinic at UCD due to "very large queuing times." Some 600 people have turned up to the walk-in clinic for the over 50s, but the centre only has the capacity to deal with 100 people per hour.
The HSE’s national lead for the vaccination programme has acknowledged the “vagaries” of the system and problems with databases, following confusion around the number of people who have got their booster shot.
Damien McCallion said that the priority was to ensure maximum choice and maximum capacity.
Earlier this week, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that between November 22 and 28, a total of 208,000 appointments were issued but only 80,000 people turned up.
Micheál Martin said between November 29 and December 5, another 180,000 appointments were issued but only 93,000 showed up.
Mr McCallion said the time lag between the HSE’s vaccination database and the IT systems used by pharmacies and GPs was being addressed and he accepted that the system had not worked as smoothly as it should.
There had been a further upgrade to the HSE’s system last night, he told RTÉ radio’s.
If people were vaccinated in a pharmacy or at their GP then it would be recorded in the system and the issue of multiple appointments would cease.
Pharmacies and GPs, both of whom offer the booster, have reported delays in people being marked as having had the jab in the main HSE database.
Darragh O’Loughlin, general secretary of the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) told RTÉ that if somebody got their booster vaccine in a pharmacy their details were entered into the Pharmavax system, which is a HSE developed and owned system that feeds the national CoVax database.
“What that means is that people are having a vaccine in a pharmacy — they are getting a booster, they are going home — and then a day or two later they might be issued an appointment in a vaccination centre by text and they are then struggling to cancel that appointment.
"As a result, these people turn up as a no show in a vaccination centre despite the fact that they've already had their booster.”
Mr O'Loughlin called for the system to be made “smoother.”
Dr Nuala O’Connor, Covid-19 lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), explained that there was a similar lag when GPs enter vaccination details into the Socrates or Helix IT systems used by the HSE.
“We understand this data can take up to 48 hours to be inputted to the Covax database.”
Mr McCallion said that records will be updated more swiftly and the multiple texts to people will cease. The aim was to accelerate vaccination uptake.
“We are trying to enhance the system.”
If a person was vaccinated in a pharmacy or through a GP then they would now be in the system. According to the HSE, if someone gets a text about a booster appointment and they have already received the jab, they can cancel it by replying to the text with the word 'REJECT.'
Appointments for vaccination centres will be made as close as possible to home addresses, he said, if the appointment time was not convenient people had a number of ways to change it, the aim was to be as flexible as possible which was why walk-in clinics were being introduced — to increase capacity, he said.
Mr McCallion said that vaccination clinics would close for only two days over Christmas — on Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day.