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Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1005 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall Zoom on Róisín Shortall] How is the Minister going to identify the others? When is he going to develop a database that will ensure the roll-out will take place quickly over the next few weeks? The same questions apply, of course, in respect of people with underlying conditions who are at high risk.

My final point relates to the recategorisation and reprioritisation for the vaccination programme. I fully accept the evidence around these matters and decisions should be based on evidence. The evidence we have so far is that age is the single biggest predictor when it comes to severe outcomes but not when it comes to risk from exposure. That is the key difference. Has any study been done relating to exposure as opposed to severe outcomes to support the reprioritisation? I would appreciate it if the Minister would send me replies to those questions.

Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan: Information on Pádraig O'Sullivan Zoom on Pádraig O'Sullivan I have three or four brief questions to which I would appreciate responses. Given the alleged difficulties with the vaccination portal up to now, can the Minister clarify details about the veracity of the new portal? Will personal public service, PPS, numbers be used as identifiers? What legislation or statutory instrument will be required to address the problem with children's shoes? Will the Minister clarify when the change will be brought in? Will the Minister outline what contact he and his Department have had with community pharmacists to inform them of their upcoming role in the roll-out of the vaccine?

I also wish to inquire about people with underlying conditions who are aged 16 and under, including those with Down's syndrome. Has any consideration been given to those people and their parents, who are their primary carers, given that those parents are likely to be young enough? Has any consideration been given to them in terms of the roll-out of the vaccine?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy for his questions. On children and vaccinations, there is ongoing work and clinical trials are being carried out. As Professor Butler said yesterday, the vaccines are not currently authorised for children but the clinical trials go on. If the EMA looks at the data and authorises the vaccines for children, NIAC and other agencies will consider whether it can be implemented here.

Pharmacists are going to play a key role in the vaccination programme, particularly in the coming months as we scale up. There is a deal in place with the Irish Pharmacy Union in terms of pharmacists vaccinating on their own premises and working in the vaccination centres. I would envisage pharmacists coming online more and more as capacity is ramped up as we move through the age cohorts. The sense is that on the underlying condition cohorts, that is, cohorts 4 and-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Thank you, Minister. I know it is unsatisfactory, but the time is up.

Deputy Alan Dillon: Information on Alan  Dillon Zoom on Alan  Dillon The new vaccine allocation strategy announced on Tuesday evening has not been welcomed by many in our public sector. Those working in the education sector, An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces were not expecting the news on Tuesday evening about the new strategy. I am not alone in finding it difficult to go from discussing workers in occupations essential to the functioning of society last week to a completely different allocation strategy. We debated the issue only seven days ago. There is anger among occupations working in high-risk situations and this needs to be sorted and addressed.

I am seeking information on what key performance indicators, KPIs, will be used to monitor our vaccination centres over the coming weeks and months. The Mayo centre is now up and running but updates will be needed, in time. I want to avoid using crude metrics which would result in counties being compared to neighbouring counties and discussions about who got the most vaccines. Some thought need to be given to KPIs and associated metrics that do not feed an us-versus-them approach to the roll-out of the vaccines. I will keep my contribution to those two points, the vaccine allocation and the KPIs for the vaccination centres.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly How long have I got to reply? I have only 14 seconds. Perhaps I should revert to the Deputy in writing. He asked important questions and I cannot address them in 14 seconds.

Deputy James O'Connor: Information on James O'Connor Zoom on James O'Connor I thank the Minister for being here. I will stress the case for Ireland to start looking seriously at the possibility of implementing a vaccination green certificate. It has been successfully trialled in other countries which are considering its use. In two months' time, we will be in a situation where a large percentage of our population will be inoculated for the Covid-19 virus and we should give serious thought to whether the green certificate system could be implemented in Ireland given that we are a leading country in the technology sector. The system has many benefits for the reopening of society and the economy.

I have listened with interest to discussions of the new vaccination portal. Will the PPS system be linked to the new portal? As I understand it, there has been much abuse of vaccines and people have been able to secure them when they should not have been. I would appreciate it if the Minister could answer that question for me.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly How long do I have?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Minister has just under a minute.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy for his questions. The green certificate is an interesting idea and, as the Deputy will be aware, it is being formally progressed by the European Union. It might provide a pathway for travel between EU member states that do not have the various biosecurity measures in place for EU citizens who have a green certificate to verify their vaccination or, potentially, to verify a recent infection with Covid. We will be looking at that with interest. As the Deputy has raised previously, there are some potentially interesting options. Israel is exploring a few interesting domestic policies for those who are vaccinated. I will revert in writing and respond to the Deputy's question about the portal.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd There is some good news to report on an issue I raised with the Minister in the recent past. The HSE has decided to have a vaccination centre in Drogheda, the largest town in the country, where I live. That is welcome and any support the Minister can give through his office to ensure the centre is staffed with enough vaccinators to vaccinate the population as the vaccines come through would be very welcome. Four premises have been looked at and a decision is imminent. It is important to say that to the Minister.

It is also important for the Minister to understand that the people to whom I speak understand he is not hiding vaccines from the public in his office or Department. As I understand it, every vaccine the Department gets is delivered as soon as possible. However, we are at the mercy of the European Union with regard to vaccine availability. Notwithstanding that, there is professional integrity to what the HSE is doing but there was no integrity in the actions of private hospitals and private schools. I get a stink from their actions. They are looking after each other in the old-fashioned way of 200 years ago. It is not acceptable. The Minister should come down on that hospital and the Minister for Education should come down on that school like a ton of bricks. It goes to the heart of our society. There was no equality or fairness in what happened.

There are two people in my constituency with serious illnesses and who are in the very high-risk category. One has an obesity of 45% and the other has type 1 diabetes and suffers from Addison's disease. Their doctor cannot get them a vaccination timetable because they do not have a hospital consultant. Will the Minister address that issues in his reply to me?

Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire: Information on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Zoom on Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire Since last summer, one of the things that has been repeated time and again has been that education is a priority for this Government. It is a priority for the Opposition as well. We have supported many of the measures that the Government has brought forward in the educational sector, albeit we would have liked to have seen an awful lot of them go further. At times, we listen to what the Government says and believe that there is priority for education.

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