Up to 800 people aged 85 and over will not get their Covid-19 vaccinations until next week after HSE chief Paul Reid admitted roll-out of the vaccines had suffered “significant issues”.
The affected patients are attached to around 65 GP practices that have only a few patients in that age category.
These are practices mainly in rural areas that cannot buddy up with other practices.
Vaccination will also begin next week on between 4,000 and 5,000 people in the over-70s age bracket who are house-bound.
Mr Reid was speaking after a number of GPs who had expected deliveries from the HSE of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines had expressed their anger when they failed to materialise or failed to arrive in sufficient number.
There were also major issues trying to get through to the HSE to get clarification about the vaccine supplies, which left older patients disappointed.
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 who had not yet received vaccines would get them by today, while the 65 smaller practices would have the vaccines by next week.
He said logistical and co-ordination issues had led to confusion in about 20-25 practices.
The system had worked well in the first two weeks but difficulties had arisen this week
Commenting on the shortage of the AstraZeneca vaccine, he said two deliveries of 64,000 doses had failed to arrive last week and 12,000 this week.
These vaccines were due to be administered to healthcare workers.
Because of the shortage, targets for the roll-out of vaccines will not be met this week.
Last week, the target of 100,000 was missed by 18,000.
This will spill over into next week when 84,000 doses will be given out – 4,000 fewer than anticipated.
The delays are expected to be made up before the end of March.
Last night, a spokesman for AstraZeneca said: “We have worked tirelessly over the last 10 months at record speed to develop, scale up and establish the manufacturing processes, and begin manufacturing at our supply partners.
“In addition, we remain committed to our overall quarter-two forecast for the delivery of our vaccine in line with our contract with the European Commission.”
Meanwhile, the HSE confirmed it is to start vaccinating people with underlying illnesses who are at high risk of Covid-19, beginning with the first 10,000 from next week.
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.
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said that if they were to wait to have enough Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the vaccination of this group would not start until mid-April.
He acknowledged it was going to be “ tricky” to identify all the relevant people in this group.
Hospitals are being asked to find as many people as possible in this group as quickly as possible from their records based on their illnesses.
They will then contact the patients to arrange vaccination through the hospital process.
Those aged 16 and 17 cannot be given the AstraZeneca vaccine.
GPs were told yesterday that “some people at very high risk” would be difficult to contact through the hospital system.
The HSE is working on a plan to contact them also but the details have not yet been worked out.
The Irish College of General Practitioners was told people do not need to do anything or contact anyone.
There is no requirement for GPs to make representations on their behalf.
For the moment patients should wait to hear from the hospital they attend.
The conditions include some people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic neurological disease and chronic respiratory disease.
In a message to GPs last night the Irish Medical Organisation said the HSE has agreed to increase its staff on teams dealing with vaccines for GPs.
They would deal with queries and issues on ordering
and deliveries in a responsive and timely manner.
It is appointing a dedicated relationship manager for the vaccine programme. It is also setting up a dedicated email address and phone number for the manager .
There will be a regular GP communications bulletin to advise doctors of overall vaccine availability for the week. This would also offer guidance and updates on order and delivery related matters.
The HSE has also promised to improve the timing of confirmation to GPs on order numbers and delivery dates. GPs were getting only 48 hours’ notice last week and even less this week.
Source: Irish News