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A home care assistant is vaccinated in DCU. Marc O’Sullivan
key workers

Taoiseach says particular conditions 'should be prioritised' for vaccine as govt awaits NIAC advice

The Minister for Health has sought advice on the sequencing list.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Feb 2021

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is set to respond today to queries about the sequencing of Covid-19 vaccines. 

He said that it is the government’s view that people who are immunosuppressed or have particular conditions “should be prioritised”. 

On the the government’s vaccine sequencing list, ‘key workers’ are the sixth cohort while people aged 18-64 with certain medical conditions are seventh. 

Martin was speaking during Leaders Questions in response to Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald TD who had said there is “anger” among family carers for not having a specific place in the vaccine roll-out list. 

Family carers have previously publicly called to be classed as key workers as part of the vaccine allocation list. 

McDonald said it is “absolutely essential” that family carers are part of the priority list, which she said Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had spoken about being “reconfigured”. 

“NIAC, I put it to you Taoiseach, is wrong to have left family carers in that position,” McDonald said.

And I want to ask you as head of government what you propose to do about that? Do you agree with me that family carers need to be recognised and that they need to be given their place of priority in the rollout of this vaccine?

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says that that he “fully shares and empathises” with the plight of family carers and that he “regret the politically charged manner” he says the question was asked of him. 

taoiseach Taoiseach Micheál Martin

“I didn’t think the Dáil on its own was going to decide on who gets vaccinated first in a political way,” he said, adding that NIAC is looking at this issue:

“The Minister has written to NIAC in terms of looking again at that cohort, and the sequencing of that. My understanding is that NIAC will be responding today to that in terms of the sequencing of those who in NIAC’s view should be prioritised in relation to vaccinations.”

The overwhelming clinical view has been that senior citizens should be the first to be vaccinated because they are the most vulnerable. Equally, however, the Minister and the government have put that request to NIAC to consider the situation, because we are of the view that those who are immunosuppressed or have particular conditions, like Parkinson’s disease and cystic fibrosis, should be prioritised. Clearly, if those people contracted the virus they would be more vulnerable to severe illness and potential mortality.


One parent who previously spoke to about the issue, David Nolan, said his family’s lives have been “in limbo”. 

He cares for this three-year-old son Ollie and currently would be in the second-last category to receive a vaccine – those ‘aged 18-54 who did not have access to the vaccine in prior phases’.

There are two main concerns for Nolan and his wife; the first is that Ollie, who has Type 1 diabetes, could contract the virus and become very ill, the second is that they, his carers, could become sick with it and therefore unable to provide his care.

“If he gets sick it’s not necessarily Covid that will be the problem, diabetes is the problem. He was in hospital with a head cold previously because his blood sugar became so erratic,” Nolan said.

“If he has it, he’s at risk of needing treatment in a clinical setting. And if we had it and were sick with it, Ollie would have to enter a clinical setting because of the demands of his care.

If there is even one decimal place in error with his insulin it could put him in a coma. The way I see it is that there are lots of reasons to vaccinate carers, and one is to keep the vulnerable children we care for out of hospital. He can’t get the vaccine, I want to get it so I can protect him from Covid. has sought a comment from the HSE about whether any changes to the vaccine sequencing list is expected. 

Antigen tests

Meanwhile, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) is asking the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to explore whether there is scope to use antigen testing as part of the easing of visitor restrictions in nursing home. 

NHI says that antigen testing is now being used by the HSE in hospital settings and could be introduced incrementally in nursing homes. 

“Antigen testing can fulfil an important role in supporting visits in nursing homes, which are informed and guided by public health,” NHI CEO Tadhg Daly said this afternoon. 

“Nursing home residents and their relatives have endured great upset due to necessary public health visitor restrictions in the past year. We believe effective rollout of antigen testing should be a priority for NPHET with a view to it guiding and informing the review of visitation guidance in tandem with infection prevention and control measures, risk assessment and safe rollout of the vaccination across nursing homes and broader society.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

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