Childcare provider says it complied with HSE vaccine prioritisation request

Claims staff at Wexford support service were vaccinated before turn in rollout schedule

An organisation at the centre of a claim that childcare staff were vaccinated out of sequence has said it complied with a Health Service Executive request that all staff register their details for “prioritisation of the vaccine”.

It comes after a Dáil claim by Labour leader Alan Kelly that staff at a Wexford childcare provider were vaccinated before their place in the HSE's vaccine rollout plan.

Mr Kelly didn't name any organisation in the Dáil last Thursday but relayed how his colleague, Wexford TD Brendan Howlin, had told him of a childcare provider in the county that got all its staff inoculated.

The Irish Times understands that Ferns Diocesan Youth Service (FDYS ) – a support service for young people in marginalised communities – is the organisation Mr Kelly had been referring to.

FDYS is a so-called Section 39 organisation which is independent of the HSE but gets State support.

It has workers across a range of fields including childcare and youth services to help people caught up in addiction or others from marginalised sections of society such as the Travelling and Roma communities.

National campaign

A FDYS statement on Monday night said: “All staff of Section 39 organisations across the country were requested by the HSE to register their details for prioritisation of the vaccine.

“To support this national campaign to protect service users from across Ireland’s most marginalised communities, we complied with this request.

“FDYS is proud to serve those most at risk, and continues to provide quality services throughout this pandemic.”

The spokesman said: “FDYS does not retain records of who has or has not been vaccinated for data protection reasons.”

The Labour Party did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

A spokesman for the HSE South East Community Healthcare group said residents in long-term care facilities were in the first group for vaccinations in the region.

He said, “In accordance with the nationally set guidelines and regulations, frontline healthcare workers were the next group to be offered the vaccine” and this process was ongoing. “Whereas employees of childcare providers are part of groups due for vaccination at later stages, there are various (non-HSE) agencies in the disability services, youth work and family resource sectors whose employees may be involved in aspects of childcare work as it relates to particular services.”

‘Adherence to criteria’

He added, “There is an expectation that each such entity, in its provision of candidates for vaccination, ensure adherence to criteria as frontline healthcare workers.”

A national spokeswoman for the HSE did not respond directly to an Irish Times query on whether all FDYS staff – including childcare workers – should have been registered for vaccination.

She said the HSE was administering the vaccine in line with the Government’s provisional allocation groups.

She pointed to HSE guidelines for sequencing and said: “Sequencing is based on the type of work undertaken, as well as the setting and maintaining a safe level of health and social care services; and not where people work (community or acute hospital), who they work for (public sector, voluntary or private sector), and category of worker or grade.”

She said: “This document allows for sequencing of staff in keeping with the zero wastage policy of the vaccine and includes all other healthcare workers, not in direct patient/service user contact, but who provide essential health services, for example, management, administration and other non-patient/service user facing personnel.”