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Bray school 'sincerely apologises' after vaccination of staff members at Beacon Hospital

The Beacon has ordered a review after teachers from a fee-paying school were inoculated at its vaccination centre.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Mar 30th 2021, 4:14 PM

ST GERARD’S SCHOOL in Bray has apologised for its involvement in the vaccination of teachers at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin last week.

20 of the school’s staff members received a vaccine against Covid-19 at the Beacon last Tuesday after the hospital said that available doses would go to waste if they were not administered.

In a letter to parents, the school said it “sincerely apologises” for its role in the vaccinations.

“The Board sincerely apologises for the school’s involvement in this incident and appreciates the hurt and anger that has been caused within the school, and in the wider community,” the letter said.

“Given the controversy concerning the administration of vaccines to 20 staff from the school by the Beacon Hospital in South Dublin last week, the Board of Directors of the school has received a briefing from the Principal of the Junior School and the Headmaster of the Secondary School and has carefully reviewed the circumstances surrounding the issue,” St Gerard’s said.

The school said that it is “important to state that no person acting on behalf of the school sought early access to vaccines under the vaccination programme being run by the Beacon Hospital or by any other hospital”.

“On the contrary, the school received unsolicited contact from the CEO of the Beacon Hospital at approximately 4.15pm on Tuesday last (23 March) to see whether five members of staff would be available at short notice to receive vaccines which would go to waste if not used by 6pm that evening.”

It was explained to the school that these doses were left over as a result of a scheduling error involving a vaccination clinic at the hospital which had run that day. The Principal of the Junior School, who received this contact, was assured on this call – and subsequently – that the use of vaccines in this manner, which would otherwise go to waste, was appropriate and HSE permission. The need for urgency was emphasised.”

The school said it received further contact that an additional five, and then ten, doses had been identified that would be wasted if not used within an hour.

“The school employs over 100 staff and with limited time available, the Principal of the Junior School and the Headmaster of the Secondary School each contacted a number of staff and organised for 10 from each school to travel to the hospital to receive the vacancies,” the school said.

The letter said that the school’s Board “appreciates that during the current pandemic, the administration of vaccines is a matter of great sensitivity and importance” but that it is “satisfied that the individuals in the school who dealt with this matter and those who received the vaccines did so in good faith, having had a number of assurances that using the vaccines in this manner in order to avoid waste had HSE permission”.

“The fact that the Board of the Beacon hospital has now confirmed that the decision to offer the vaccines ‘was not in line with the sequencing guidelines in place from the HSE’ is deeply concerning.”

“The Board will work to build trust and will ensure that no incident like this can happen again.”

The Irish Daily Mail reported last week that teachers from St Gerard’s, a fee-paying school in Bray, received vaccines at the Beacon Hospital and that children of the CEO attend the Wicklow school.

A teacher in St Gerard’s school in Bray has said they were “utterly devastated” to learn that other staff members had received a Covid-19 vaccine at the Beacon Hospital.

The teacher, who did not receive a vaccine, said the incident was a “disgrace”.

In a letter that was read out on RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline earlier today, the teacher said that staff who had not received vaccines at the Beacon are now being “tarred with the one brush” along with those who were inoculated.

“I am a teacher in St Gerard’s senior school, and I am utterly devastated and very angry by what has taken place,” the teacher said.

“I just want to make the point that this is not all the teachers in St Gerard’s. It is a very small minority of them and they have to live with this. The vast majority had no part in this, and yet are being tarred with the one brush,” they said.

“The number of teachers and management who took this vaccine is 20. There are approximately 100 members of staff between the two schools, so approximately a fifth are involved in this affair.”

The teacher said that the “chosen colleagues never told or shared this information with the rest of us”.

“The rest of the teaching body and staff only learned of this appalling affair from the breaking news on Friday morning. Teachers and their extended family and staff innocent of the scandal have had to endure text messages and phone calls, all weekend, asking them if they had skipped the queue and taken the vaccine.”

“We should not be expected to carry the can for them,” the teacher said.

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“I would not have taken the vaccine had I been offered it. I am fit and healthy, and I’m frustrated that my own elderly relatives have not yet been vaccinated,” they said.

“I am glad I did not get the call anyway, as I would have been left knowing that this was going on and then I too would have been complicit. It is a disgrace. It should never have happened.”

The Beacon Hospital had been used as a vaccination hub to inoculate frontline healthcare workers, but Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly requested on Saturday that its vaccine operations be suspended.

The hospital has committed to an independent review to “ascertain all of the facts associated with the operation of the Vaccination Centre”.

In a statement yesterday, the hospital said it “unreservedly apologises to our patients, staff and the wider community for the upset caused by the vaccination of teachers in the Beacon Vaccination Centre”.  

“The Board is proud of the excellent standards of care maintained by our hospital and its adherence to the highest levels of governance and clinical excellence. ”

As of Saturday, 802,502 doses of vaccines against Covid-19 have been administered in Ireland, including 577,641 first doses and 224,861 second doses.

The rollout programme is currently focused on people aged 70 and older and peopled aged 16-69 who are at a very high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.

St Gerard’s has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Journal since Friday.

The parents’ association in the school has not responded this week.

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