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Taoiseach apologises to people turned away from vaccination centres

The HSE also apologised to anyone impacted by booster appointment issues.

A sign for a vaccination centre offering booster jabs this morning
A sign for a vaccination centre offering booster jabs this morning
Image: Sam Boal

Updated Dec 9th 2021, 6:17 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS has apologised to people who were turned away from vaccination centres in Dublin today.

Walk-in centres at University College Dublin and Croke Park offering booster jabs hit capacity this morning, forcing the HSE to turn people away, and issue statements on social media advising others not to attend.

It came after Micheál Martin claimed this week that the public did not have the same sense of “urgency” around boosters as they did during the initial vaccination rollout.

Speaking today, he said: “The first point I would make is of course, we don’t want any mix up or any inconvenience for people.

“We want to make vaccines as accessible to people as we possibly can.

“Now a million people have been vaccinated through the booster, that needs to be acknowledged

“There are many centres across the country, which were very busy today, but which were much calmer than the newer centre that was set up in UCD this morning.

“We don’t like to have to say to people it’s over-subscribed and having to turn away.

“We apologise to people who are in that position.”

The HSE said measures to improve the system for allocating booster vaccine appointments have been taken.

At a weekly briefing today, the health service acknowledged that there were gaps within the system for allocating booster vaccine appointments, which lead to people receiving appointments for jabs after already receiving their vaccine.

The issues are arising due to communication gaps between the IT systems of the HSE, pharmacies and GPs, as people can access boosters through those three sources.

The HSE confirmed to The Journal on Tuesday that multiple appointments were being offered to people. 

This afternoon, HSE National Director Damien McCallion acknowledged the issues with some appointment scheduling and apologised to anyone who was impacted by the issues.

“We know there’s been some challenges around the appointment scheduling, and we apologise to people who maybe have been impacted by that,” said McCallion.

Speaking to Morning Ireland earlier today, McCallion said that the gaps are due to a separation in the three IT systems, which report data on who has received boosters in different ways.

McCallion said that he accepted that the process had not worked smoothly, but said that opening three streams of vaccination rather than one was to help give people more choice as to where they got vaccinated.

“We accept that the system, if you like, hasn’t worked as smoothly, given the level of, I suppose, of human interaction that’s involved on our side and across the whole process,” said McCallion.

“We knew when we activated GPs, pharmacies and vaccination centres, all working through the same groups at the same time, that there would be challenges within that and that it would be imperfect.

“On balance, when we made that decision we wanted to make sure two things really, one is that people would have the maximum choices of where to get vaccinated to make it as easy as possible and secondly to maximise the capacity.”

Urgency for vaccines

Speaking to the media earlier today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that his comments in the Dáil over a “lack of urgency” for people getting the vaccine were informed by data given to him, but says that the key is people getting their booster when eligible.

“The core point I was making in the Dáil during the week was the booster really, really enhances your protection, not only against Delta, but against Omicron,” said Martin.

“It is the primary weapon we have and that people have in terms of protecting themselves against Covid.

“My point at the time was to encourage people.”

In a statement to The Journal last night, the HSE explained why some people had been receiving multiple offers for booster appointments.

In order to give people maximum opportunity to get a booster and to use all capacity in the programme we are using vaccination centres, GPs and pharmacies as vaccination channels. This can mean that people will occasionally get appointments from multiple sources, or indeed after already been vaccinated. While steps have been taken to minimise this, it is inevitable this will occur but our priority is to ensure we give people maximum choices to get vaccinated.

While the pharmacy IT system will transfer data on vaccinations in real-time, data from GPs may take up to a day to transfer due to the nature of their system.

Due to this, McCallion said that it would not be possible to entirely eliminate the issue with double bookings, but that this shouldn’t cause issues.

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“There will always be time lags in terms of the time when someone could be in a GP, but what I would say to people is we will get the information through

“Even if someone gets a text, we overbook to allow for that in some ways, that’s one of the reasons we do an overbooking, similar to an airline.

“We know there will always be an element of that, we’ll never completely eliminate it.”

HSE Chief Executive, Paul Reid, also said the text message system used for booster jabs had been revised, with three options now being available. These consist of:

  • An option to reject a booster appointment using REJECT
  • An option to schedule a different booster appointment using NEW
  • A third option for people who have had a case of Covid-19 within the last six months, where a booster can be rescheduled for at least six weeks by texting COVID

McCallion said that the upgrade to the text system was carried out last night.

It comes as people over the age of 50 are now eligible to receive their booster dose, with reports also emerging that the Government plans to allow people in their 30s and 40s receive a booster before Christmas.

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer, Céimin Burke and Rónán Duffy

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