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'All about an effective roll-out now': Vaccine prioritisation for nursing home residents welcomed after difficult year

Under the government’s prioritisation plan, residents of nursing homes aged 65 and over will receive a Covid-19 vaccine first.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Lighthunter

THE PRIORITISATION OF nursing home residents for receipt of a Covid-19 vaccine once one becomes available has been described as “very welcome” after what has been a “hugely challenging year”. 

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadhg Daly said: “This is a good news story. We were expecting it, but it’s also good to see it confirmed. It’s all about planning an effective roll-out now.”

Earlier today, the government published its list of how the vaccine will be allocated across various groups

Under the provisional list for vaccine allocation, adults aged aged 65 years and over who are residents of long-term care facilities are top of that list. 

The government’s document suggests that offering the vaccination to all residents and staff on site should be considered.

As the rationale for designating this group first, the government said: “[This group are] at greatest risk of severe illness and death. 

“In Ireland, in the first wave of Covid-19, 56% of deaths occurred in this setting.”

Under its headline of ethical principles behind this choice, it said: “In line with the principle of minimising harm, vaccination of this group would protect those at greatest risk of a poor outcome from infection.

“It adheres to the principle of moral equality and the principle of fairness in recognising the disproportionate burden this group has carried.”

Ireland’s ability to access vaccines will be determined by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which regulates the sector in the EU. The EMA is set to meet to consider the latest data on vaccines and potentially grant approval to candidates such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on 29 December.

This would clear the way for the vaccine to be made available early in 2021.

Nursing Homes Ireland says it provides care to over 25,000 people in over 400 private and voluntary nursing homes in the State, which it adds accounts for 90% of all private and voluntary nursing home beds in the State. 

Its CEO Daly said that his organisation should be among those consulted as the first vaccines are given to residents around Ireland. 

“It’ll be a fairly complex rollout,” he said. “Nursing homes are based in every community around Ireland.

It’s the actual delivery of the vaccine itself we’ll need to look at. Will training be required? Who will be giving the vaccinations?

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Daly said that the government’s task force on the vaccination rollout is set to provide further details by the end of the week, and the information in that plan will inform how things progress from there. 

Separately, under new guidelines introduced yesterday, operators of nursing homes have been advised that residents should be allowed to one visit per week with efforts also to be made to accommodate an extra Christmas visit.

The new guidance outlines that at Levels 3 and 4, nursing homes residents are allowed up to one visit per week. At Level 5, up to one visit every two weeks is permitted. Ireland is currently under Level 3 restrictions. 

Daly said today that consideration should be given to vaccinating a nominated visitor to a nursing home early to allow a designated visitor or carer visit their loved one in the residential setting.  

“It’s been a hugely challenging year,” he said. “Staff have been heroic throughout, maintaining people’s spirit and that connection. We had already said that consideration should be given to nominated visitors.

“The [vaccine allocation] document is a living, breathing document. So there’s scope for changes there.”

About the author:

Sean Murray

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