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Homeless people in Dublin to start getting Covid-19 vaccines next week

The HSE plans to begin administering at a facility in Dublin city centre on Monday.

THE VACCINATION PROGRAMME is to be rolled out to Dublin’s homeless population next week despite setbacks with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson jab. 

Health officials had previously indicated the J&J vaccine could be used for vulnerable, harder to reach groups in Ireland due to its one-shot dosage.

But amid delays the HSE has earmarked an initial 700 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and plans to begin administering it to homeless people at a facility in Dublin city centre from Monday. 

The HSE and homeless services acknowledge the difficulties in reaching cohorts who may have no fixed abode, including homeless people. The preference for using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it requires just one dose making it easier to administer to people who may pass through different services on an ongoing basis.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) is currently consulting with NGOs and the HSE about plans for doses to be administered effectively from next week after the majority of frontline staff have received their vaccine.

The initial rollout will target very high-risk single people living in hostels across the city with transportation to be organised by Dublin Fire Brigade.

Separately, a number of vulnerable people living in long-term accommodation in Dublin will also be vaccinated next week under HSE plans.

There are an estimated 3,000 homeless people in Dublin city in addition to 700 families living in hotels, according to official figures, as well as hundreds of people living in long-term accommodation provided by Peter McVerry Trust, Focus Ireland and other homeless providers. 

Families will be vaccinated at a later stage in the vaccination programme as well as the remainder of homeless people in Dublin as the rollout continues. 

A majority of frontline homeless services staff in the DRHE have already received at least one dose of a vaccine. 

A spokesperson for Focus said the rollout of the vaccination programme for people in Dublin who are homeless “is a massively positive step forward in the fight against Covid”. 

“Focus Ireland’s approach is to continue to follow public health advice and encourage both frontline staff and people who are homeless to avail of the vaccine at the earliest opportunity.

“We all have our part to play in this programme and it is a very positive development.”

A spokesperson for Peter McVerry Trust said it welcomes the rollout of vaccines across homeless services. 

“We continue to work closely with our partners in the HSE and the DRHE to ensure that those who are medically vulnerable in homeless services are supported to access vaccination opportunities offered in line with appropriate medical sequencing and the available supply of vaccines,” they said. 

“Our staff have been speaking to and supporting people in our services with information from the HSE in relation to the vaccines and vaccine programme. We will continue to support people throughout the process and minimise barriers people might face in taking up vaccine offers.”

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A HSE spokesperson said the rollout for Ireland’s overall homeless population “is currently being planned and an update will be available in due course.”

Meanwhile, the National Immunisation Advisory Council (NIAC) is considering what advice it will issue about the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Ireland but is not expected to make a decision until next week. 

It follows an announcement by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Tuesday that the “overall benefits” of the J&J vaccine outweighs any potential risks, following reports of rare blood clotting events.

The EMA previously approved the vaccine for use in the EU and NIAC is set to consider its new advice in terms of how Johnson & Johnson will be used here.

The single-shot vaccine is seen as crucial to Ireland’s rollout, with 600,000 doses of the jab expected to be delivered before the end of June.

A total of 1,240,965 vaccine doses have been administered in Ireland as of Tuesday. Of those, 878,823 were first doses with 363,142 people now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. 

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