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No medical students have been hired as vaccinators, despite Minister saying they were giving jabs at vaccine centres

The health minister said last month that he had met students administering vaccines.

Only a certain cohort of medical professions can administer the vaccine.
Only a certain cohort of medical professions can administer the vaccine.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

NO MEDICAL STUDENTS have been hired to administer the Covid-19 vaccine, despite Health Minister Stephen Donnelly stating that they were giving jabs at vaccination centres.

Labour’s Alan Kelly raised concerns in the Dáil on 25 March about the recruitment of vaccinators and whether the country would have enough heading into the summer months as the vaccination programme ramps up. 

The minister replied that he had seen some of the coverage around issues people applying for the jobs had come up against. He said he was “concerned” about some of the things he had been hearing.

“I have chased much of it up with the HSE and much of what I heard turned out not to be the case. For example, not only can medical students be in our vaccination team, they already are.

“I met medical students in the Helix who were vaccinating,” he said. 

He said that the position with retired healthcare workers was the same. “We have now trained in excess of 10,000 vaccinators and are continuing to grow that. I think we share the same objective.”

He assured Kelly that it his intention that the team of vaccinators will be as “big as it can be”.

However, in response to a parliamentary question from Kelly this week, the HSE has said that no medical students have been hired to administer the vaccine, as they are not eligible to do so. 

“No medical students have been hired as Covid-19 vaccinators up until 31 March 2021,” said the HSE. 

In a statement to The Journal, the HSE said that some students volunteer at vaccination facilities to offer assistance, but they are not involved in the administration of vaccines.

It said the the cohort of healthcare professionals who can legally administer the vaccine with the required specific training, includes:

  • Medical practitioners
  • A registered nurse (including a registered midwife)
  • A registered pharmacist
  • An advanced paramedic
  • A paramedic
  • An emergency medical technician
  • A physiotherapist registered in the register of the Physiotherapists Registration Board
  • A registered optometrist
  • A registered dentist

The HSE said it can only recruit vaccinators from those Department of Health disciplines approved above.

A spokesperson for the minister said: “As he said in Dail in March he understood they could apply for roles and that he met some in the Helix.”

In correspondence seen by The Journal, the HSE said it will widen the recruitment pool to include any additional professionals agreed by the Department of Health to legally administer the vaccine with the required specific training.

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This week’s Cabinet heard that healthcare students, vets, dental hygienists, and radiographers could be added to the list shortly.

The HSE states that feedback from the 38 vaccine centres to-date indicates each has sufficient numbers of vaccinators based on the current supply.

The health service estimates it will need between 2,500 and 5,000 vaccinators to operate seven days a week across 38 national vaccination centres.

Through its recent recruitment drive, the HSE has so far hired almost 1,100 people to work in these centres, with many already in place.

HSE CEO Paul Reid said last week said a further 700 are going through final clearance and another 1,700 are still going through the process but have been deemed suitable for the roles.

In total this could bring the staffing level through this recruitment campaign alone to 3,700 vaccinators, with a mix of both full-time and part-time staff.

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