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National Ambulance Service to increase number of fleets for vaccination of housebound over 70s

Everyone in this cohort will be contacted over the next week by the HSE.

Image: Sam Boal

THE NATIONAL AMBULANCE Service is to increase the number of fleets that are travelling to the homes of those aged over 70 to vaccinate them if they are housebound.

Around 1,000 people in this cohort are still waiting to receive their first vaccine dose.

The HSE has said it has taken on board feedback from people in this cohort and their families and will be contacting them over the next week. It is expected this entire group will have their first dose in four weeks’ time. 

Speaking at a HSE briefing earlier today, Damien McCallion, HSE National Director Covid, said there are geographic limitations for crews and they can only administer a certain number in a given week.

“We are conscious it’s a group that are very limited, they can’t move so clearly we need to go to them. So we’ve taken a couple of steps based on feedback we’ve had from people,” he said.

One is that we’re calling all of those people this week, a team has been put together to make contact, just to confirm their status. What we have found at times is maybe peoples’ status has changed; they could have been vaccinated by their GP, they could have been admitted to hospital, they could have gone into some sort of residential care facility, either for transitional care or long-term care.

“So there’s a need to just go through all of the referrals that we’ve had from general practice. It’s a manual process, so we do that weekly in terms of assessing the numbers.”

He said everyone in this cohort will hear from the HSE’s customer service teams.

The National Ambulance Service will also increase the number of fleets available to do vaccination with the aim of completing this group within three to four weeks. McCallion said some of those who are housebound are now due their second dose of the vaccine so this has to be worked into the overall schedule.

“It is a complex area because of the geographical and other considerations and the nature of the patients but, one, we just want to give people assurance they’re not going to get missed – I think that’s really important for that group – and, two, is try and decrease the time to conclude those given that we will conclude the over 70s substantially this week,” he said.

“We’ve got a small percentage to be completed next week for the first dose.”

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In the Dáil earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he can understand how frustrated people must be, not knowing the date of their vaccine.

“They get worried that they will be forgotten entirely, but they won’t be forgotten – they will get their vaccine,” he said. 

Varadkar said there are other options to explore if the National Ambulance Service is unable to provide the resources needed as well as operating as an ambulance service. Pop-up centres, local GPs or pharmacists could play a role, he said.

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