Co-leader of the Social Democrats, Róisín Shortall TD, has today welcomed the announcement of the Covid-19 vaccination strategy, saying there is huge potential to transform the way we are living.

However, given that approval from the EMA is expected within the next two weeks, she has emphasised the need for early clarification from Government on a number of points before the first vaccines can be administered.

Deputy Shortall said:

“The impending arrival of a vaccine is the news we have all been waiting for, giving us hope of returning to normal life within the next year. However, urgent clarification is required on a number of key points. It is vital to get these right before vaccine rollout can begin.

“These are:

  1. The ICT system underpinning the vaccine distribution
  2. The individual health identifier
  3. Safeguards for data protection

“The ICT system is critical for ensuring that the entire supply and distribution chain functions properly and seamlessly. Although vendors for the system have been identified, it appears that contracts have still not been finalised or signed. Getting a definitive timeline for the delivery of this system will be critical to the vaccination programme, as well as ensuring that any stop-gap solution used for early vaccination is fully integrated into the final system.

“There has been talk for a few years now of creating individual health identifiers as part of the e-health strategy for our health service. This vaccination programme has underlined how important that is, but we also need to ensure that the introduction of patient identifiers is done properly despite the shortened timeline. We need to know what data will be retained as part of this, and how the system will operate to ensure patient confidentiality?

“We are still waiting on the Data Protection Impact Assessment to ensure that both of these systems can guarantee the safe and confidential processing of sensitive health data. When will the assessment be completed? It is a critical piece of patient safety needed before vaccination commences.

“The Government will also need to explain how the system of self-registration for the vaccine will work. How will people be reached who do not come forward, especially vulnerable and high-risk groups?

“Issues relating to pregnancy and fertility were raised at today’s briefing, and I will be seeking further clarity on this at tomorrow’s meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee.”

December 15, 2020

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