Coronavirus: 761 more cases and 18 further deaths in the State

HSE amends vaccine appointments system after hundreds of double-bookings

A further 18 deaths due to and 761 new cases of the virus were reported in the State by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Wednesday.

There has now been a total of 4,705 Covid-19 related deaths and 236,600 confirmed cases here since the pandemic began.

Eleven of the deaths reported occurred in March while the remaining seven took place in February.

Of Wednesday’s cases 372 are in Dublin, 55 in Meath, 43 in Cork, 40 in Kildare, 38 in Offaly and the remaining 213 cases are spread across 19 other counties.


The median age of the new cases in 33 with 72 per cent of them under 45.

As of 8am on Wednesday, 274 patients were hospitalised with the virus with 63 of those in ICE.

The national 14-day incidence rate now stands at 164.9 per 100,000.

As of March 29th, 819,676 doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered with 228,988 of those being second doses.

The latest figures came as the HSE said it had made improvements to its system for arranging vaccination appointments after hundreds of people were double-booked this week.

Vaccine appointments

Almost 600 people did not attend their appointments at the Citywest Covid-19 vaccination centre on Wednesday because they had already been inoculated.

Of the 1,329 healthcare workers due for vaccination from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group at the Citywest vaccination facility on Wednesday, just 757 attended.

In a statement the HSE said: “The centre has found that the status of the registered person may change to vaccinated if contacted by another vaccination centre and this has resulted in people not attending for appointment . . . No vaccine was wasted.”

At a weekly press briefing on Thursday, HSE chief executive Paul Reid said he was not aware of the double-booking, but he explained that healthcare workers do not register to get vaccinated at a location. They register and are later allocated a location for vaccination.

Double bookings that have occurred happened as a result of hospital groups assigning people to one centre and others within the hospital group assigning them to another centre, he suggested.

Mr Reid said it would not lead to the waste of any vials of vaccines as “they are opened as the day progresses and as they are needed”.

He added that people were “generally waiting their turn and where there are breaches we treat them seriously.

“The programme and the administration of the programme has primarily gone exactly to plan. There have been exceptional reporting issues where people have skipped the queue. It hugely relies on levels of trust.”

In a statement later, the HSE said: “Work has now been undertaken to ensure that this [the double-bookings] does not reoccur.

“In the next phase of the vaccine rollout, the portal will have an enhanced scheduling system to avoid similar booking conflicts. Furthermore, a technical enhancement to the system will be introduced, enabling people to decline appointments.”

Mr Reid described the vaccination programme in the first quarter of the year as a “tremendous success”.

Some 820,000 vaccines were administered up to March 31st with a million doses scheduled to arrive in each of the next three months. “We have got and administered everything we can get out hands on,” he said.

Mr Reid described the impact on those who have been vaccinated as “phenomenal” and hospitals and nursing homes are safer than they have been since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The public needs to be reassured that the vaccine programme is working well and there have been only a small number of exceptions to that including the Beacon Hospital, he stressed.

“We will address any exceptions that happen. They are exceptions and we do treat them seriously.”

He said the actions of the Beacon Hospital were a misuse of a public resource.

Mr Reid said he shared the anger of the public about what the hospital's chief executive Michael Cullen had done in giving 20 vaccines to teachers in the private St Gerard's School last year.

Programme that are “publicly funded are not there to be allocated on any other basis other than fairness and transparency”.

The HSE will carry out its own independent investigation into Mr Cullen’s actions.

Mr Reid said he had spoken twice to Mr Cullen last week and told him that it was not acceptable to vaccinate teachers out of sequence.

Of the 820,000 vaccines had been administered up to the end of March, 680,000 were first doses and 140,000 second doses.

In the first three days of this week, 55,000 doses were administered.

About 200,000 over-70s have been vaccinated to date with 53,000 over-85s receiving their second dose.

Mr Reid said 120,000 people had been vaccinated last week and he was “thrilled” by the recent progress.

In the region of 120,000 will be vaccinated next week now that a delivery of 112,000 AstraZeneca vaccines has arrived.

There were just 24 confirmed Covid-19 cases among hospital staff in the week up to March 21st compared to more than 1,000 a week in January.

The vaccinations next week will be administered mostly to the over-70s and then to those aged between 65 and 69.

A portal for the general public to register for vaccination will open during the month of April.

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said it supported the decision by the National Immunisation Advisory Council (Niac) and the Government to administer vaccines based on age rather than on certain cohorts.

He said age “far outweighs” the risk to every profession with the exception of healthcare workers who are seven times more likely to get Covid-19 that the general public.

Niac’s decision had the backing of those administering the vaccine, he added.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter