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

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1007 No. 7
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Marc Ó Cathasaigh: Information on Marc Ó Cathasaigh Zoom on Marc Ó Cathasaigh] That is an exciting number. A total of 300,000 vaccines going into people's arms last week is fantastic news.

I wish to address two specific issues. The Minister of State, Deputy Butler, will be familiar with one of them, particularly as it relates to west Waterford. People in Tallow and Ballyduff are being referred to a vaccination centre in Killarney. I believe this has to do with the postcode system. There is an irony in people being made to travel across two counties in view of the fact that we only just recently removed the restriction on inter-county travel. The second issue relates to Ferrybank, which is in Kilkenny but which is within 5 km of the vaccination centre at the Waterford Institute of Technology Arena. There is an irony, as well, in people having to travel that far to be vaccinated.

On a more general point, there is inconsistency with the speed of roll-out in the context of GP services. Many of the larger practices get access the vaccines first. It is great that people are getting the vaccines, but it creates a bit of ill feeling when people feel somebody is getting ahead of them in the queue.

On global vaccine equity, I do not agree with the Minister that Gavi and COVAX, as currently formulated, go far enough. I do not think a trade-related intellectual property rights, TRIPS, waiver is necessarily a silver bullet but we need to be part of a conversation about intellectual property and accelerating vaccine roll-out in the global south. I do not accept the 20% figure for global vaccinations. I do not think it will work for anybody. I will leave it at that to allow time for answers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly There are only 20 seconds left.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler The Deputy is quite right. Over the weekend, it became obvious that people in the likes of Tallow, Ballyduff and Aglish in west Waterford were being asked to go to Killarney for their vaccine and that those living in the Ferrybank area were being asked to go to Kilkenny. I made inquiries immediately. This was a postcode error. I advise that those who received their first dose in Killarney over the weekend will receive their second dose at Waterford Institute of Technology. Those in Ferrybank and those who declined will also be facilitated in Waterford.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The way I am doing this might be most unsuitable, but that is the time limit and we will now be in trouble with questions. I am sorry but maybe Deputies can take it back to the Business Committee.

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould A lady contacted me who is in desperate need of gastric sleeve surgery. She saved for four years for the surgery in Turkey. She forwarded to me a letter from her surgeon which states that this surgery is time-sensitive and necessary. I contacted the Department of Health and was informed that only a liaison officer can tell her, when she returns to Dublin Airport, whether she is exempt from hotel quarantine. She cannot afford the cost or time involved with quarantining for two weeks in a hotel on her return. She desperately needs this surgery. Will the Minister establish a pre-clearance system so people who travel for medical reasons will know in advance if they have to hotel quarantine? It is a reasonable request.

Cork University Maternity Hospital currently only vaccinates pregnant women who are over 30 weeks, far behind what other maternity hospitals in the State are doing. Why is there a delay? Will the Minister commit to contacting the hospital and supporting it in fast-tracking vaccinations for pregnant women?

For the past month, I have been contacting the Minister’s office, the HSE and others to find out on behalf of a snooker hall whether it can open for business. The owners do not when they are due to reopen. They do not know if they fall under gyms or indoor hospitality. There are other businesses out there who are confused, want to follow the guidelines and adhere to restrictions but we need a dedicated phone line for businesses to ask these questions and get clarity. Where does this snooker hall, and others like it, fall? Will the Minister establish a dedicated phone line to support the business community?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly If the Deputy will send me the details of the lady in question, we will have the matter looked at. There are numerous ongoing cases of people travelling. We have a clear regulation in place which sets out the criteria for medical exemption. As the Deputy said, those criteria include it being time-sensitive and verification from a treating clinician. If the Deputy contacts me, I will point him to exactly the criteria. If there are issues with a particular case, he can talk to me.

On Cork University Maternity Hospital, we discussed it earlier and another Deputy referenced that there is a six- to eight-week period from referral to vaccination. I ask the Deputy to bear with us and with the HSE. The system this and last week has been under extraordinary pressure because of the IT systems. Infant and maternity care was one of the areas particularly badly affected. We are doing everything we can to ensure there is as quick a roll-out to pregnant women within the stipulated age bands from NIAC as possible.

On the snooker hall, it is a great question. I suggest is probably does not qualify as a gym, unless the Deputy plays some type of snooker I am not familiar with. It is a fair question and I will make sure it is dealt with in Cabinet discussions on the next phase of opening. I thank the Deputy for raising it.

Deputy Seán Canney: Information on Seán Canney Zoom on Seán Canney I reiterate what many other speakers have said on the Covid vaccine roll-out. It has been a prime example of how, working together, we can get things done right. The feel-good factor around the country from everybody who has been vaccinated is palpable. It is important we continue that.

My first question was alluded to earlier. It relates to nursing homes and TAPS. I broached the question yesterday with the Taoiseach but the most important thing is that, when Covid arrived first, nursing homes were not prioritised. They have been prioritised since that. TAPS is very important. It helps them make sure that they can run their facilities in the safest way possible. There is a review being carried out and, until that review is complete, its findings published and the resources put in place, it is important that we continue to provide TAPS to nursing homes and not have a cliff-edge situation.

My second question relates to AstraZeneca and the 12-week gap between doses. Will the Government consider reducing the 12-week waiting time as, hopefully, the vaccination becomes more plentiful and more people are vaccinated? This is so we can reduce the time for people, especially in the context of AstraZeneca, in light of the spread of the Indian variant.

As a regional Deputy, the third issue I wish to raise relates to aviation. It has been discussed this week that the aviation industry is in crisis. We have had pilots from Aer Lingus protesting peacefully outside the gates of Leinster House. I ask the Government to look at being first in class in allowing people from North America, including Canada, enter this country once they have had their two vaccinations. This is important for the aviation industry, for the economy as a whole and for the regions, tourism and hospitality. If we can be first in class in announcing we will bring these people in, we will get a huge share of the people who will be travelling from America. Other regions such as Asia are looking at doing this but if Ireland could do it first, then people in America thinking about taking a trip would come to us and would reignite some of the businesses that are in trouble at the moment. I await the responses on those matters.

Deputy Mary Butler: Information on Mary Butler Zoom on Mary Butler TAPS for nursing homes was introduced last year as a temporary support to nursing homes during the most awful time. They needed all these supports, so the supports were put in place. The temporary assistance payment has been extended twice already and is due to cease at the end of June. My understanding is that the financial payments will cease at that time. However, all other supports will remain, such as the supply of PPE and of infection prevention and control measure supports in respect of the 23 Covid teams on the ground. It is important to recognise the situation we are now in regarding nursing homes. Almost 99% of residents and in excess of 90% of staff in nursing homes have been vaccinated. Thankfully, the numbers who have Covid in nursing homes is at an all-time low. There was only one outbreak reported last week.


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