Speaking in the Dáil today, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall TD has raised four key concerns about the vaccination programme in relation to the capability to scale-up, queue jumping, speed of rollout for very high and high-risk individuals, and the changes to the vaccine priority list.

She said:

“The vaccination programme has the potential to be transformative, but only if it operates properly.

Plan for vaccine rollout needs to be published

“It is very concerning that there is still no published plan for how the vaccines will be rolled out at scale. Over the last week, the daily average doses administered was approximately 18,000. To ramp up the rollout to close to 1 million in April, as the Minister has promised, that needs to nearly double to 33,000 daily. In June and July, that needs to go up again to 50,000 daily based on projections. There is still no published plan to ensure the feasibility of the operation on that scale.

“Unresolved issues are hindering that growth. The recruitment process for vaccinators is extremely convoluted and has led to the date for applications being pushed out multiple times. Why hasn’t this been sorted out? Why are registered doctors being asked for their Junior Cert results? In addition, there is still no indication for when vaccines will begin in community pharmacies, which is crucial to mass vaccination.

Queue jumping

“The queue jumping that has been well-publicised at the Coombe, the Beacon and with VHI is incredibly dispiriting and damages confidence in the entire rollout.

“Now there are allegations that the HSE registration portal may have been subject to widespread abuse by office-bound clerical staff and others. The Minister needs to initiate an audit of who has received vaccines in the health sector to investigate these claims.

Speed of rollout for very high and high-risk individuals

“There are 160,000 people in the very high-risk category, yet less than 30,000 have received a vaccine to date. The Minister should make it clear how the rest of this cohort will be identified. There is a lot of confusion for the patients right now, and he needs to give assurances about when the database will be rolled out so that all of these very vulnerable people, as well as those in the high-risk category, are vaccinated quickly and nobody is missed.

Vaccine priority list

“Decisions absolutely need to be based on evidence. The evidence provided to date relates to the risk of severe outcomes as a result of contracting the virus. However, the concern among frontline workers is about the risk of contracting the virus in the first place. It would appear that this risk of exposure has not been measured. The Minister should clarify whether he or NIAC have considered any evidence relating to risk from exposure.”

April 1, 2021

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