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Healthcare workers still in need of first vaccine dose to remain waiting until February

Current supply is being used to provide second doses to those who have already received their first dose.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

HEALTHCARE WORKERS WHO still need to receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will likely be waiting until the second week of February.

Some healthcare staff, who are in the second priority group of the vaccine rollout plan, will remain without a first dose as Ireland waits for more supply of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said that current supply is being used to provide second doses to those who have already received their first dose.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Dr Henry said that we have “confirmed supply that will bring us through to mid-February that will allow us to complete those two-dose schedules for nursing home residents and staff and also allow us to complete the schedule of healthcare workers who received their first dose”.

“At this point in time we can complete vaccination of those people who’ve got their first dose. That’s about 73,000,” Dr Henry said.

“We are hoping to begin new cohorts of healthcare workers in the first or second week of February depending on confirmed deliveries,” he said.

“As soon as we get confirmation of delivery of stock from Pfizer, and we believe at this stage that we’re probably looking at probably the second week of February, [we will] resume addressing priority healthcare workers with their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.”

As of 20 January, 121,900 first doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in Ireland.

Residents and staff of long-time care facilities are in the first priority group to be vaccinated, followed by healthcare workers in direct patient contact.

General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) Phil Ní Sheaghdha said it is “inexcusable” that healthcare workers are still waiting for their first dose.

Speaking on the programme, Ní Sheaghdha said there should have been priority given to those who are “more susceptible to infection”.

“We have nurses dying in this country and other healthcare workers dying because they are putting their lives at risk,” she said.

INMO are calling for improved safety measures in healthcare settings, including a national requirement for high-standard FFP2 masks in all healthcare settings rather than basic surgical masks and increasing the distance between beds from one to two metres.

The union wants regular testing for healthcare staff on a rolling basis and a safety review in every hospital to reduce footfall and improve decontamination.

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In a statement, Siptu said that the wait for healthcare workers is a “cause of major concern”.

Siptu Health Divisional Organiser Kevin Figgis said the programme “was meant to be designed to underpin the safe and responsible distribution of the vaccine and we all need to have complete confidence in it”. 

“The government must now take immediate action to protect our frontline health workers by doing all they can to rapidly increase the supply of vaccinations coming into the country,” Figgis said.

“They must also be upfront with people about the importance of sticking to the sequencing programme while protecting our most vulnerable and giving confidence to all those on the frontline of our health service that their dose is on the way,” he said.

Between 6 January and 19 January, 5,403 healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19, with nearly 2,000 infected in a healthcare setting.

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