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Donnelly hails 'important week' as GPs and nurses vaccinated ahead of over-85s rollout tomorrow

The Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are being given at centres in Dublin, Portlaoise, Sligo and Galway this weekend.

Dr Marie Nangle, a GP from Tullamore, receives her second dose of the Moderna vaccine at the GP vaccination clinic in the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise
Dr Marie Nangle, a GP from Tullamore, receives her second dose of the Moderna vaccine at the GP vaccination clinic in the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise

Updated Feb 14th 2021, 1:45 PM

COVID-19 VACCINES are being administered again today to doctors and practice nurses at mass vaccination centres across the country, with 5,000 jabs forecast across the weekend.

The HSE is hoping that the vast majority of these frontline workers will have had at least their first dose of the vaccine over the weekend.

The Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are being given at centres in Dublin, Portlaoise and Galway, with 1,800 expected to receive their second dose.

HSE CEO Paul Reid said last night that around 2,000 vaccinations of GPs and practice nurses had been completed yesterday. 

“We’ll do it all again tomorrow with an extra centre in Sligo,” Reid said. “Ready for next week to start to vaccinate the 85+ yr olds in the community.”

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week programme, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly says this is an “important week upcoming in our fight” against Covid-19.

He said around 70,000 people over the age of 85 who haven’t yet been vaccinated will receive one in the coming weeks.

“It’ll take three weeks,” he said. “There’ll be about 20,000 vaccines distributed to 84 GP practices. The following week, we’ll be ramping that up further, we’ll be getting to another 384 practices.”

Donnelly said that it was down to logistics and supply for how many people could be vaccinated each week. He said that the logistics are “more complex” because the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are being used instead of the AstraZeneca vaccine for this age cohort.

The Health Minister said that the September timeline for every adult in the country to be vaccinated was contingent on a number of factors. 

“So the September date was an effort to give people a sense for the direction we’re going,” he said. “If the supplies come through that September date will still hold.”

Donnelly added that he was taken aback from reports this week that a doctor was refusing to administer vaccines. 

He said no one should find themselves in a situation where a GP refuses to give them a vaccine if they are currently eligible to receive one. 

The minister also said that he couldn’t provide a date for when restrictions would be significantly eased as that depends on the trajectory of the disease in this country. 

Weekend vaccinations

Among those helping to administer vaccines at the Portlaoise centre was Defence Forces doctor, Captain Fiachra Lambe.

He told the PA news agency: “It’s really positive. Lots of relief, lots of happiness, lots of people saying that it gives them a bit of hope for the future. It’s a really nice thing to be involved in these days.

“It’s positive, it’s people seeing change in progress and seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dr Lambe said the centre was running quickly and smoothly, and that lessons have been learned about the logistical approach from previous operations.

He said: “It’s been busy. But there’s been lots of good admin and logistics. I think everybody learned how things did and didn’t work from our last time out.

“Speaking to all the people coming through, there’s no time wasting. They’re not getting any time to sit down or wait around before they get a vaccine. It’s very productive, very slick.

“People have nominated times from their first dose. So the logistical operation has really improved.”

Dr Lambe was among eight Defence Forces doctors administering vaccines this weekend.

Six medical officers were deployed to the centres in Galway, Dublin and Laois to assist with the mass vaccination of GPs.

Another two were deployed to assist with vaccinations in nursing homes in Dublin and Kildare.

Tullamore GP Dr Marie Nangle was there to receive her second dose of the vaccine yesterday. She said the centre at Portlaoise was “very efficient and well run”.

She said: “It’s great, it’s really good to have it. I thought it was so efficient. I’m really grateful to everyone who organised it, it was really well run.

She added: “I didn’t actually have to wait around at all to receive my vaccine.

“We went into a cubicle with another health care professional and got the dose.

“Then there’s a waiting areas being provided by the National Ambulance Service. You wait a prescribed amount of time to make sure there’s no reactions. It was very quick, it was great.”

She said having the vaccine will make a huge difference to her work.

She said: “It’s that reassurance, that you’re kind of protected against it. It just makes things a lot easier.

“I know we still have to wear masks, because they’re a bit unsure about whether you can still transmit it or not.

“But you definitely feel a lot more confident, dealing with patients on a daily basis when you’ve been vaccinated.”

Dr Katye Gamble received her second dose of the vaccine and was also on hand to administer it to the public.

She said: “I think you feel far more reassured going into work yourself, when you’re dealing with patients face to face. It’s reassuring to know that you’re protected.

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“I think the IT side of it, and the fact they had similar vaccinators to the last rollout in Portlaoise, the system was flawless today.

“It moved very, very quickly and smoothly and there were no waiting times, which was great for the patients.”

Regina Leonard, a care worker at St Michael’s House in Dublin, said she would now feel much more confident about going to work.

She said: “It means that I feel more confident and safer in myself, going into my work. I also look after my dad, who has dementia.

“After work I didn’t feel confident going in to him, but hopefully now I won’t be passing on anything. And it’s reassuring for my own safety as well.

“I just feel so grateful that I was given the opportunity to get it today.”

Yesterday saw 66 further deaths related to Covid-19, the Department of Health said.

There were also an additional 1,078 confirmed cases of the disease notified yesterday.

Of the deaths recorded yesterday, 41 occurred in February, eight were in January and another nine took place in November or earlier.

There has been a total of 3,931 Covid-19 related deaths in Ireland to date.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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