Around 800 over-85s will not get Covid-19 vaccine until next week as ‘significant’ roll out issues emerge

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Up to 800 people aged 85 and older will not get the Covid-19 vaccine until next week as HSE chief Paul Reid admitted today “significant issues”have arisen in the roll out in recent days.

he patients who are due to get the jab next week are attached to around 65 GP practices which have low numbers of people in this age category.

These are GPs mainly in rural areas who cannot buddy up with other practices.

Vaccination is also to begin next week on the over 70s who are house bound.

GPs or the National Ambulance Service will bring the vaccine to the around 4,000 to 5,000 in that catagory.

Mr Reid was speaking after anger among a number of GPs who had expected deliveries which failed to materialise while others received too little doses.

There were also major issues trying to get through to the HSE to get clarification leaving their older patients deeply disappointed at the failure of the vaccines to arrive.

Mr Reid said: “I acknowledge significant frustration this week. I accept the issues that need to be addressed and we will address them.”

He said 160 GP practices which have not yet received vaccine will get them today and tomorrow while the 65 smaller practices will have the vaccines next week.

There were” logistical and coordination issues” which led to confusion in around twenty to twenty five practices, he acknowledged.

The roll out worked well in the first two weeks but the difficulties arose this week.

Commenting on the shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine for healthcare workers he said two scheduled deliveries of 64,000 dose last week and 12,000 this week were impacted. The delays are expected to be made up before the end of March.

Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed it is to start vaccinating people with underlying illnesses who are at high risk of Covid-19 from next week, beginning with the first 10,000.

There are around 160,000 patients in this group and hospitals have been told to identify them and notify them when a vaccine is ready.

They will be given the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee said this group should get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines but if there was a delay of three weeks they could be given the AstraZeneca jab.

Dr Colm Henry chief clinical officer of the HSE said if they were to wait to have enough of Pfizer or Moderna the vaccination of this group would not start until mid April.

He acknowledged it is going to be “ tricky” to identify all the relevant people in this group.

He said the early signals are that the vaccines are already contributing to a significant drop in infections and deaths in long term care facilities.

There is also a dramatic drop in infections in healthcare workers.

Dr Abbie Collins, a HSE public health specialist, said public health doctors were called to around 1,150 education facilities due to Covid-19 in the last term – around 28pc .

Meanwhile Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is denying that vaccine targets are being missed by the HSE or the State and is blaming AstraZeneca for changing its promised supply.

“The HSE’s target is to get out what it gets in, the HSE is not missing its target at all,” he said.

Mr Donnelly denied in the Dáil that the HSE or the State have failed to meet vaccination targets, but then blamed AstraZeneca for changing the numbers of doses it promised to deliver.

He claimed AstraZeneca changed its figures three times in a week at one point.

“This week, a figure was given out that the hope was to vaccinate 120,000 people this week.

“It’ll be lower than that because AstraZeneca, at the last minute, mid-week, said actually, you’re not getting what you need.”

He said this is being “portrayed” as targets being missed, but that this isn’t the case “at all”.

“Unfortunately, how that is being portrayed by some is that the HSE has missed its targets and the state has missed its targets, whereas in fact, it’s not the case at all.

He was responding to Labour leader Alan Kelly’s urge to publish weekly vaccine targets in an effort to be more “transparent” with the public.

The minister warned this could “erode” public confidence.

“If we publish the forecast at that level of detail it will change regularly and my concern that it will cause a lot of concern among the general public and that it may erode trust and it could be down to one company moving around its supplies all the time,” he said.

Minister Donnelly said that “in good faith”, several weeks ago he said that most people would be vaccinated by September.

He said that this target has now been “potentially moved again” because of AstraZeneca and that he was accused of making “false promises”.

“Within an hour I was being accused of making false promises. If we are going to use forecast information, my ask back is that all of us in the House use it accordingly because it has not always been used in that way.”

Speaking at Leinster House, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was very clear that vaccine targets had not been met. “I think Stephen Donnelly has to accept that if they’re going to state targets there will be an expectation that they’re met,” she said.

Asked if she had confidence in Mr Donnelly to deliver the vaccination programme, Ms McDonald said: “I don’t have confidence in this government full stop. I wouldn’t have confidence in many of them to deliver a pint of milk to my front door, quite frankly.”

She said supplies from pharma companies had been an issue from the start, but that the Government was obligated to ensure “continuity of supply”.

“Other countries and other jurisdictions are now looking to establish all of their options in terms of secure supply of vaccine and I think Stephen Donnelly needs to do similarly,” she said.

Online Editors

Source: Irish News