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Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 6
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly] NIAC made the recommendation and this is fair. I want to know what parameters changed that now say that age is the best way of doing this? What has changed from day one because the parameters do not seem to have changed but the recommendation has? That was my second question.

My third question relates to NPHET, which gave fairly startling figures yesterday on what would happen if our social contacts increase. I accept their figures and their maths. Have we any projections from NPHET based on the vaccines having come in over the next number of months? Are the figures it is giving us based upon the increase of the virus plus vaccines or minus vaccines? This is a critical question. Is NPHET taking into account the volume of people the Taoiseach has told us will be vaccinated, that is 80% of the people will have some vaccination by the end of June? Are these projections incorporating this information?

My final question relates to the Pfizer vaccine and the syringes that are being used. Many pharmacists have said that Zeringe syringes are being used in other jurisdictions which create a zero residual value. In other words, one can get more doses out of them. Why are we not using these syringes? Is the Minister aware of this? For instance, in Holland, the authorities are getting an extra dose, which would mean that hundreds of thousands more doses would be available. Has this been checked out and factored in and if so, why are we not using it? I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Minister has been left with 25 seconds to reply.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy who has asked some very important questions and has made some accusations which obviously are his right to make-----

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly The Minister said that he-----

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly -----but he has only left me with ten seconds to respond. I can respond to all of these and in fact I have to hand the most detailed figures I can give him. I brought them in because I thought he might be looking for the figures but he has not, however, left me with any time to give them to him.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I asked him-----

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly With respect, Deputy, I brought the figures into give to the Deputy but he has not left me any time to give them to him. I will revert to him on that.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I gave the Minister plenty of time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I need to keep to time. We are going to move on within what I have and Deputy Kelly is now taking time from other speakers. He can take any issues up later. I ask for co-operation as the Deputy is now eating into his colleagues' time and I move now to the Government speakers, of whom there are three and I will be sticking to the time allotted. I call Deputy Brendan Smith to speak, who has three minutes.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane The Minister is taking us for fools here.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. As we all know a swift, effective and fair vaccination programme is essential to deal with the pandemic which has unfortunately been with this for more than 12 months. It continues to cause untold hardship in so many ways right throughout this country and indeed the world. People I have spoken to over 80 years of age and other health front-line healthcare workers who have had the vaccine say that it has been transformative. It is heartening to speak to older people to see again the confidence that they have regained in themselves where they hope to get out and get back to a more normal type of life. We are all very glad to know of the very effective results of vaccines. That is clearly demonstrated by the dramatic reduction in infection rates in those groups which have had the vaccine. This is a clear proof of the value, efficacy and complete importance of getting the programme rolled out as soon as possible to all persons who are entitled to the vaccine.

The recent changes announced by the Government on Tuesday night to the vaccination allocation strategy is causing concern to many personnel providing front-line services. On different occasions in the Dáil and in representations to the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, I have raised the need to prioritise certain front-line workers within the vaccine programme. In those instances I have made representations on behalf of members of the Garda, teachers, special needs assistants and carers. The change to an age-based approach must be fully explained to the representative organisations of these front-line workers. Many of the people to whom I have spoken over the past 24 to 36 hours have put forward legitimate cases for prioritisation and they need answers. These personnel had expectations of getting the vaccine based on their prioritisation pertaining to their work being essential and oftentimes being based in crowded settings. I appeal to the Minister to outline why there has been a change in strategy. I know that it came from the national immunisation advisory committee but it needs to be clearly outlined why this is seen to be a more effective and fairer approach and one that will deal with the concerns of the community at large. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Minister has 40 seconds to reply.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and the Deputy for his question and statement. The answer is that NIAC looked very carefully at all of the evidence to date, including new information which it did not have when it came up with the original provisional prioritisation. As the Deputy will be aware, for example, NIAC have shown that if one compares the risk of death from Covid-19 for someone between the ages of 20 to 35 and between 60 to 64, the 60 to 64-year-old is more than 70 times more likely to die from Covid-19. Age is the single biggest predictor and the prioritisation from NIAC and NPHET has come to Government on the basis that this is how we minimise the damage of Covid-19 in the quickest time possible, saving as many lives as possible and allowing us to open the country as quickly as possible.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I call now Deputy Durkan.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan How many minutes do I have, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly As the third speaker does not appear to be in the Chamber, there are five and a half minutes left.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I first acknowledge the work done by the front-line workers at all levels throughout the country in this long difficult battle. They have given everything and still have to give more because there is still time to travel with this virus and it is a challenging time. It appears to me that the crucial issue at this stage is the availability of vaccines, together with the practising of isolation, social distancing, hand hygiene etc. to the maximum extent possible. There are a couple of worrying factors. We all have people who have been in touch with us who can point out breaches in social distancing, in the meeting of groups and congregations, which are unnecessary other than for recreational purposes. I ask that instead of pointing fingers at one another that we encourage one another to observe the social distancing and everything that is deemed to be helpful in the fight against the virus and to, at the same time, ensure that the country can avail of extra doses of vaccine at short notice if it is needed. One thing that would be unhelpful at this stage is if it should transpire that a glitch in the system might cause further delay in the availability of vaccines.

Can the Minister have regard to the concerns of gardaí and teachers who have direct dealings with the public in different ways and to bear their concerns in mind with a view to taking specific steps, in the event of that being needed, in the shortest possible time? They have to do their jobs in any event and they will be called upon in various emergencies that will expose them to possible infection.

My last point is on the predictions. I am somewhat concerned about predictions as it can be both beneficial and negative. We have to give hope to people and the more that the Minister can say to generate that hope the better at this particular stage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I call now Deputy Griffin.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. While I was in the Chamber, for whatever reason her information had not been updated. Can I put to the Minister first and foremost-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I did not have the Deputy's name on any list but that is fine and I am allowing him in to speak now.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin I am sure that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did not have the name but it had been given in by the Whip's office. I will try to put the questions and answers here to the Minister within the three minutes that I have.

What measures are in place to ensure that what happened at the Beacon Hospital does not happen again and can he give assurances that there will be protocols in place to ensure that anybody who is contacted at short notice is assured that everything is kosher? As a result of what happened at the Beacon Hospital, we could have a situation where people are afraid to take up offers because they are afraid that everything might not be legitimate?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly Can I ask the Leas-Cheann Comhairle is the time that has been mentioned for the Deputy who has just spoken?


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