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Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-out: Statements

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1007 No. 7

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Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-out: Statements

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Anne Rabbitte): Information on Anne Rabbitte Zoom on Anne Rabbitte I am pleased to be able to update the House on the vaccine roll-out programme as it relates to people with disabilities. The national vaccine programme is unprecedented in its scale and will grow to become the largest immunisation programme in the history of the State. It is important to me and to people with disabilities and their families that the appropriate priorities are made in the national roll out, which I have spoken out about a number of times. It is also important for me to acknowledge how hard it has been on people with disabilities and their families over the course of this pandemic. It has not been easy, of that there is no doubt but we are turning a corner now and there are brighter days ahead.

  Covid-19 has affected people with disabilities significantly and there have been 155 outbreaks in disability settings this year. Around 1,250 staff and residents in disability services have been infected since the start of 2021. Tragically, I have been notified of 20 deaths in disability settings since the start of this year. To those families who have lost loved ones, I pass on my sincere condolences. It is important to acknowledge and thank the healthcare workers and disability service providers for their hard work over the last 14 months. Collectively, they have done their utmost to keep people safe. I am pleased to report that all but four of the disability outbreaks in 2021 have now been declared closed and I am glad to be able to inform the House that there have been no Covid-19 outbreaks recorded in disability services since 19 April. This situation held until 13 May when the cyberattack halted receipt of detailed Health Protection Surveillance Centre, HSPC, data on outbreaks and cases. This certainly suggests that the vaccination programme is successful in suppressing the outbreak of Covid-19 in disability services. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our healthcare workers and disability service providers for their hard work and dedication which has gotten us to this point.

As Covid-19 has disproportionately affected people with disabilities, I have sought to ensure that they and the staff in disability services are prioritised in the vaccine roll-out programme. The focus has been on ensuring those who face the greatest risk of severe disease and death, the oldest and most vulnerable in society, as well as those who care for them, are prioritised for vaccines. I am pleased to inform the House that the HSE has ensured that people who live in disability residential settings and those who attend day services have been vaccinated as part of the 271,000 people included in cohort 4, that is, people who are aged 16 to 69 years and at very high risk of severe Covid-19 disease. Access to Covid-19 vaccination has also been made available to individuals with a disability through the GP pathway and within HSE vaccination settings. The administration of the second vaccine dose for this group began in the week beginning 10 May and, to date, 11% of this group are now fully vaccinated. The first dose roll-out is mostly complete and the second dose inoculation will continue through June 2021.

  Many people in receipt of health-funded disability services have complex co-morbid health conditions but might not be attending a day or residential service. They are largely included in cohort 7 which comprises people aged 16 to 59 years with medical conditions at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease. There are 250,000 people in this cohort and vaccinations for them began in May and are being delivered primarily through GPs. The first dose for all of these individuals is expected to be completed by mid June. Administration of the second dose of the vaccine for this group commenced this week, with 715 second-dose vaccinations scheduled. Both first and second dose administration will continue over the coming weeks.

  Community clinical teams have offered Covid-19 vaccinations within their community clinics or through central vaccination clinics for individuals from cohorts 4 and 7 who can be identified as eligible for a vaccine because of their disability. In the context of disability services, this is all being done while the provision of services continues. I must stress how grateful we all are to the staff working on the front line who are continuing to deliver services for people with disabilities and their families, day in and day out. Disability services continued to operate during level 5 restrictions, providing vital supports to service users and their families during difficult times. There is no doubt that there will continue to be challenges but the vaccine roll-out programme has already demonstrated its agility in responding to unpredictable changes in delivery schedules.

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