Covid-19: Almost 800 people outside top two priority groups have been vaccinated

Government officials working on who will be vaccinated in sixth ‘key workers’ group

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) claims the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines started in a “haphazard manner” and was not focused on the locations or workplaces with the highest infections. Video: Oireachtas TV

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Almost 800 people outside the top two priority groups of nursing home residents and staff and frontline healthcare workers currently being inoculated have received Covid-19 vaccines.

The HSE disclosed in the first daily posting of vaccination figures on the Covid-19 data hub that 798 had been vaccinated outside the first two groups being prioritised for inoculation.

These two groups are people aged 65 years and older who are residents of long-term care facilities, likely to include all staff and residents on site, and frontline healthcare workers.

The HSE said 88,198 people in the first group and 148,000 in the second had received vaccines.

There are 15 groups in the queue for vaccinations, with State health vaccinators about to move to the third priority group – people aged 70 and older – from the start of next week.

Some 236,996 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had been administered, including to 152,652 who had received their first dose. Some 84,344 of those people have received second doses.

Government officials are carrying out work refining who will be the “key workers” vaccinated in “cohort six” after the third “70s and over” group, other healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact in “cohort four” and people aged between 65 and 69 in “cohort five”.

The decision on who to include in the “key workers” group will be “a clinical decision” based on the principles of protecting those most at risk, a Government spokesman said.

It will take a number of weeks to finalise while the rollout to healthcare workers and the over 70s continues, he added.

“It will look at groups who would be classed as essential workers under Level 5 lockdown restrictions. It would be workers in essential services who can’t avoid contact with the public,” he said.

The decision not to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, one of three authorised for use in the State, to the over-70s due to a lack of clinical data on its effectiveness among older people means vaccines will become available for younger recipients more quickly than originally expected.

Consultants

Among the individuals who were vaccinated outside the first two priority groups are family members of staff at the Coombe and Rotunda maternity hospitals in Dublin, construction workers at University Hospital Kerry and KPMG consultants working for the HSE.

The HSE plans to vaccinate elderly priests and nuns living in congregated settings early next week after they were not included in the initial rollout in nursing homes given that the clerical-run congregated homes are not regulated by the Health Information and Quality Authority.

Religious orders have been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with outbreaks and deaths from the disease in homes for elderly priests and nuns.

Vaccinating individuals outside the top two key priority groups has drawn controversy.

The board of the Coombe hospital asked lawyer Brian Kennedy SC to carry out an independent review of the decision by the master of the hospital, Prof Michael O’Connell, to vaccinate 16 family members of hospital staff, including two of his children, and five others under the age of 70.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said the review was under way, and would be completed in a number of weeks.

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