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Covid-19 Vaccine Roll-out: Statements (Continued)

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1007 No. 7

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Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I thank the Minister and all those who are involved in the roll-out of the vaccine. It has been most successful.

First, I have received quite a number of emails from pregnant women who are attending Cork University Maternity Hospital, some of whom have been advised that it will be at least six to eight weeks before they receive the vaccine. I understand that those who are 32 weeks' pregnant are currently being vaccinated and the programme is working backwards. It is a great concern for those women, who are going through an anxious time and who have been told they must wait six to eight weeks for the vaccine. I ask the Minister for clarification on that issue.

The Minister may not be in a position to respond to my second point. It concerns undocumented migrants in this country. I refer to those who applied for asylum but were unsuccessful and who remain here. My understanding is there are more than 30,000 such people. What is being done to include them in the vaccination programme?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy for his questions. In respect of Cork University Hospital, I will take the issue up with the HSE this week. A lot of effort has been put into making the vaccines available to pregnant women according to the stipulations of NIAC. Certainly, no one would wish to see a six to eight-week delay before women receive the first dose of the vaccine. I fully appreciate the Deputy's comments regarding concern and I will pick that up this week.

As for direct provision, those in direct provision are included in one of the categories in the vaccination programme, as with other groups in congregated settings. That is being looked at and they will be scheduled into the programme. I will revert to the Deputy with more details as to exactly how that is being done.

Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke The question was about people who are not on any list. Has contact been made with the various agencies that provide support to such people? They are undocumented migrants. I seek clarification in this regard.

I wish to raise another issue concerning the case of a person who is working with the blood transfusion service. That person registered for a vaccination appointment in February 2021 and still has not received an appointment date. There does not appear to be a mechanism available to try to get such people vaccinated. They cannot register again because they are already on the system, even though the age at which they can register has been reached. Perhaps the Minister could provide clarification on that issue.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly It is difficult for me to comment on individual cases. If the Deputy provides me with details of the case, I will make sure it is looked into.

Deputy Cormac Devlin: Information on Cormac Devlin Zoom on Cormac Devlin I thank the Minister and Ministers of State for taking questions this morning. Recent indications suggest that the roll-out is continuing at pace, with more than 2.5 million vaccinations now having been administered and with more than 45% of all adults having received their first jab. Hopefully, that figure will have reached 50% by next week. It is most encouraging. As the Minister stated, it is a testament to doctors, nurses, GPs and all those involved in this great national effort to bring us out of the Covid pandemic.

While all the indications are positive, we should be careful to note that only 15% of adults have received their second dose and are therefore fully vaccinated. We should be cautious over the next few short weeks until the majority of people have been fully vaccinated. This will allow us to accelerate the reopening, while being reassured that people who have been fully vaccinated are well protected against all known variants. I understand that almost 300,000 people were vaccinated last week and a similar number are expected to be vaccinated this week. I heard what the Minister said about being cautious around the delivery of supply. We have been here before, unfortunately, and it is out of our control. Hopefully, we will see the target of 400,000 vaccinations administered being hit in June and July, dependent on deliveries, of course.

In the time remaining, I have three short questions for the Minister. The first concerns the opening of the vaccine booking portal for those aged 40 to 44. I heard this morning that a choice may be offered to those in that cohort. I ask the Minister to elaborate on that.

The Minister mentioned the 38th vaccination centre being located in UCD, which I welcome. I thank the Minister for listening to the concerns of those in the south-east Dublin region. I ask the Minister to indicate when that centre is due to open.

Finally, I wish to raise a point that I have raised with the Minister previously. It concerns the statutory instruments and restrictions on safe events such as drive-in movies and drive-in bingo. I see that the Minister of State, Deputy Butler is present in the Chamber. I thank her for attendance. Another issue about which I am passionate is the opening of day care centres. Many of the staff of these centres have been vaccinated, as have certain cohorts who work there in other capacities. Perhaps the Minister will elaborate on when those centres will reopen.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Mary Butler): Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler In relation to the day care centres, we all understand the important role that day centres play. Our elderly population has not been able to access day care centres since March 2020. An announcement will be made in respect of the reopening of those centres tomorrow, and a timeline will be included.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly On the Deputy's question in respect of vaccinations for those aged 40 to 44, it is still being looked at. We hope to have an exact date for the commencement of vaccinations in the coming days. One of the challenges in sequencing the programme and providing these exact dates is the considerable uncertainty that has arisen with regard to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine deliveries for the month of June, as well as for May.

Deputy Mairéad Farrell: Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell Bhí roinnt daoine ó Chonamara i dteagmháil liom le déanaí ag rá nach bhfuil an vacsaín ar fáil óna ndochtúir teaghlaigh. Ag an am céanna, níl bealach ar bith isteach acu chuig an ionad vacsaíne i mBaile an Bhriotaigh i gcathair na Gaillimhe, mar níl bus nó traein a théann isteach ann agus muna bhfuil carr acu níl bealach ar bith acu an vacsaín seo a fháil. Dúirt an tAire níos luaithe go bhfuil sé chun athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na hathruithe ar an mbealach stórála don vacsaín AstraZeneca. An mbeidh impleachtaí aige sin ar dhaoine cosúil leo seo? An bhfuil an tAire chun réiteach a fháil ar an bhfadhb seo i gcomhair daoine i gceantair iargúlta ar nós Conamara agus Gaeltachtaí eile?

I wish to raise with the Minister the following issue. A number of people from Connemara have contacted me. They have reported that their GP is not providing them with the vaccine and they are having difficulties in getting to Ballybrit, where the vaccination centre is located for Galway city. There is no bus or train service available to take these people into Ballybrit.

I missed some of the Minister's earlier contribution because I was travelling here. I am aware that he mentioned that issue of storage methods will be looked into in light of the updated advice in respect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Will the Minister be looking into some way of accommodating people living in more isolated rural areas like Connemara and other Gaeltacht areas?

I also wish to raise another issue with the Minister. It concerns cohort 7 of the vaccination programme. When will those in cohort 7, whose GPs have opted out of vaccinating patients, be vaccinated? Currently, it appears that some teenagers in cohort 7 may not be vaccinated until the end of the summer. The HSE had stated that the vaccination booking portal would be open for that cohort nearly two weeks ago. Since the cyberattack there has been little or no access to information for the people in cohort 7. Last week, only 1% of those in cohort 7 had been vaccinated, despite the fact that vaccinations were due to commence for that cohort from 1 May 2021. There are over 300,000 people in cohort 7 and only 2,785 of them had been vaccinated by last week. They are being told to wait until vaccination booking opens for their age group. How is that fair for 17-year-old girls who have been cocooning for the last year and a half? I ask the Minister to confirm when the portal will be open for those whose GPs have opted out of administering vaccinations.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I thank the Deputy for her questions. I thank her for raising the issue of access to vaccinations for those in Connemara. Deputy Ó Cuív has also informed me that there has been some concern in the area that the drive to the vaccination centre is simply too long. I have raised the issue with the HSE. There are a few areas in Mayo, Connemara and in parts of Donegal, where people are located outside of the desired length of travel to the vaccination centre. It is absolutely the case that Connemara is one of the areas furthest away from the nearest centre. We have raised the issue with the HSE with a view to finding a local solution. For example, I know that in the community to which Deputy Farrell referred, there is a community centre that people are interested in using as a satellite vaccination centre. That option can be looked at. In addition, we are looking into whether clusters of GPs could be used to administer greater numbers of vaccinations because for some people, the trip to the centre is too long. The issue is being into and I thank the Deputy for raising it.

On the issue of cohort 7, I note the Deputy's point. I am aware that there is a frustration amongst some who are waiting to get vaccinated. The cyberattack has caused a few problems around data flow. It is worth stating, in respect of cohort 7, that the numbers on the portal are lower than reality. Actually, quite a number of these people have been done.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly We must move on.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly I will revert in writing with the remainder.

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