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'It's a little bit shambolic': Hundreds turned away after two Dublin walk-in centres reach capacity

People were turned away from two Dublin booster walk-in centres this morning after the HSE sent texts out to people last night.

Queues outside the Covid-19 booster clinic at UCD this morning.
Queues outside the Covid-19 booster clinic at UCD this morning.
Image: Gráinne Ní Aodha/The Journal

Updated Dec 9th 2021, 1:00 PM

PEOPLE LEFT QUEUING for hours outside a Dublin walk-in centre before hundreds were turned away for the day, have labelled the incident as “a fiasco” and “shambolic”.

The HSE advised people not to attend walk-in Covid booster clinics at UCD and Croke Park this morning after hundreds queued from the early morning and both centres reached capacity. 

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar apologised in the Dáil this afternoon for those who had been left waiting or turned away: “I just want to express my regret and apologise on behalf of the government for the inconvenience faced by people this morning.”

People towards the front of the queue at UCD had been waiting in line since 7.30am. The centre was due to open at 8am and stay open for walk-ins until 10am, but at 9.30 hundreds of people in the queue were told the centre was closed for walk-ins. 

Many agreed that there was a communications issue about what people should do, and commented that GPs were not answering phones and chemists did not have the supplies.

Almost all of those waiting in the queue who spoke to The Journal said they had received a text message from the HSE the night before, advising them to attend their nearest walk-in centre if they had not received an appointment from their GP.

This seems to have led to the increased demand at vaccination walk-in centres today.

20211209_094242 Source: Gráinne Ní Aodha/The Journal

From today, people aged 50 to 59 can receive their booster jabs, once it has been at least five months since their second vaccine, or three months since the one-shot Janssen.

As has happened at other walk-in booster clinics in recent weeks, large queues were seen forming outside the UCD centre from this morning. The queue stretched from the Gerard Manley Hopkins Building, which is where the walk-in clinic is set up, and past the student residences towards the GAA pitch.

One person in the queue said it stretched as far back as the Clonskeagh Road at one stage.

Many in the queue at UCD were aged in their 60s, and turned up today after not being able to get a booster appointment from their GP or local chemist.

Two women said they wouldn’t mind being turned away if they were able to get in touch with their GPs or pharmacist about a booster appointment.

“We can’t get the doctors to vaccinate us, we can’t get the chemist to vaccinate us,” one said.

One couple near the start of the queue at UCD said they had been in line since 7.30am for a booster jab after the man, aged in his 60s, received a text from the HSE to say he should attend a walk-in clinic for his jab.  

When another woman was asked what she thought of the Taoiseach’s comments from earlier in the week about people not showing up for booster appointments, she gestured towards the queue and said: “Look at this, this is a joke”.

Another man said that it was “a little bit shambolic”.

“There are three ways to get a vaccine and it strikes me that the IT system doesn’t have the features to link up the ways boosters are offered,” he said, adding that he was lucky he was able to queue up outside the centre, but that some people who arrived had mobility issues.

Another man, aged 64 who had been queuing since 8am, said that it was a “fiasco”.

He attended the walk-in clinic after getting a text from the HSE last night to attend his nearest vaccine centre, and that because Citywest was closed today, he came to UCD.

He added that an official had told him that they can vaccinate 100 people an hour at the UCD clinic, and that he could be waiting for 4 hours until he was jabbed.

He said that they had been told nothing since the walk-in centre was closed other than to get an appointment. “How can they run out of vaccines by 9.30am?” he asked.

“They’re making fools out of people, telling them to come and then turning them away.”

Another man suggested that the Taoiseach and Minister for Health should come to the vaccine queue before making statements about low uptake rates, and said the Tánaiste’s commitment about 40-to 50-year-olds getting their booster jab this month was “nonsense” and “unfair”.

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“Everything at the summer went really smoothly, it’s a logistical issue,” he said.

“And it’s not just today, this has been going on for weeks.”

The HSE advised people on Twitter not to attend the UCD centre as it is already at capacity with “very large queuing times”. The health service advised people to instead attend the clinic at Shoreline Leisure Centre in Wicklow, which it says is open from 9am to 5pm.

At around 9.10am officials told people nearer the end of the queue that no more vaccines are available. Later on, this message was relayed towards people closer to the top of the queue, though around 50 people stayed to “find out” whether they could still get a booster vaccine once they reached the top of the queue.  

booster queue The queue outside the UCD booster clinic before it opened at 8am this morning. Source: Ed Brophy via Twitter

HSE National Director Damien McCallion said that every vaccine centre “has a certain capacity”. 

He said HSE social media provides daily updates to show which walk-in centres have queues, and to advise of any other centres nearby with walk-ins available. 

“So if you take UCD, you’ve options in terms of Citywest, Croke Park, Shoreline,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. 

“So there’s a range of centres… if people see that there are queues in one area, they may be able to decide to go to an alternative centre or wait until those queues abate over the day.” 

The HSE has been contacted for further comment.

With reporting from Orla Dwyer.

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