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Standby list of frontline healthcare workers should be in place for any leftover vaccines, HSE says

A HSE document says “every effort should be made” to ensure vaccines are given to frontline healthcare workers.

Image: Shutterstock/hedgehog94

A HSE DOCUMENT on Covid-19 vaccination of frontline healthcare workers has said there should be a standby list of healthcare workers available to avoid any waste in the instance of leftover vaccines. 

The document published on 12 January also said that vaccination centres were initially based at locations with “access to sufficient numbers of staff to ensure that the vaccine is used” which “raises geographical equity of access for people who do not work at large centres”. 

It was reported earlier that some family members of Coombe Hospital staff received leftover Covid-19 vaccine doses on 8 January.

The HSE document, which was approved by Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry, outlined that “every effort should be made” to ensure vaccines are given to frontline healthcare workers “rather than given primarily to people later in the sequence who work in the institution that hosts the vaccination centre”. 

It said this should be done by having a list of frontline healthcare workers on standby. 

“If a vaccination centre has the vaccine and the capacity to administer 200 vaccines per day (for example) they should administer the vaccine to the 200 frontline healthcare workers earliest in sequence order who are able to attend on the day.

If frontline healthcare workers earlier in the sequence order are not available to attend they should proceed to frontline healthcare workers later in the sequence order (no dose should be wasted).

“Centres should establish standby lists of frontline healthcare workers later in the
sequence order that are available at short notice and that are randomly selected
from the lists for vaccination in the event that frontline healthcare workers earlier in
the sequence order do not attend or cannot receive the vaccine,” the document said.

It added that it is “necessary” to consider the sequencing of vaccination of frontline healthcare workers, which is “inevitable disappointing and frustrating” for people who see their colleagues get vaccinated ahead of them.

The document said centres should also consider creating lists of “other healthcare workers” who are not in direct patient contact but who are available at short notice.

These would be randomly selected from the vaccination lists “if for any reason frontline healthcare workers are not available and the alternative is that vaccine dose expires”, the guidance states.

‘Geographical equity’

The document also said that vaccination centres were initially based at locations with “access to sufficient numbers of staff to ensure that the vaccine is used” which “raises issues of geographical equity and equity of access for people who work do not work at large centres”. 

This guidance document was released on 12 January by the HSE. TheJournal.ie has asked the HSE to clarify whether similar advice was issued before this date to vaccination centres.

The Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital said 16 prepared vaccine doses were left over on the evening of 8 January and “to ensure that vaccines were not wasted they were administered to family members of employees of the hospital”.

“Of the 16 recipients, nine were over 70 and the remaining seven were of varying age. It would not be appropriate for the hospital to comment on the individuals involved,” a spokesperson for the hospital said.

The story was first reported by the Irish Times last night. 

The HSE has outlined that once a vaccine is removed from the fridge, it must be diluted within two hours.

Once a vaccine is diluted, it must be used within six hours.

“Any unused or partially unused diluted vials must be discarded when this time has been reached,” the HSE said. 

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Speaking to the media this afternoon, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said he was concerned about what happened a the Coombe. 

“There should be no vaccines going into the bin… but there aren’t ‘spare vaccines’ in Ireland,” Harris said. 

The Minister said there was either a protocol for “spare” vaccines which wasn’t followed, “or perhaps more worryingly, there isn’t a protocol at all”. 

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