Covid-19: Communications head appointed for vaccine rollout

Move comes amid criticism of pace of rollout and concern over vaccine hesitancy among population

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. File photograph: Nathan Laine/Bloomberg

 

The Government has appointed an experienced public relations professional to oversee communications around the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Elizabeth Headon is to join the high-level taskforce on Covid-19 vaccination chaired by Prof Brian MacCraith, as head of vaccine communications.

Her appointment follows criticism of the pace of vaccine rollout in its early stages since late December and concerns over vaccine hesitancy in the population.

Ms Headon, who is charged with overseeing communications of the national vaccination strategy and the rollout, is on a short-term secondment from her role as corporate communications lead at Bus Eireann.

Opposition politicians have raised concerns over what they see as a slow early rollout of the vaccination programme. Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall has called for clarification of the phasing of vaccine delivery and administration as well as on staffing issues.

Asked last Monday who was in charge of the vaccine rollout, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said direct responsibility lay with the health service while the Department of Health was responsible for policy.

He said the Minister for Health was accountable for the programme but that responsibility for operation and delivery lay with the Health Service Executive, which has “major experience” in such programmes.

He said the Government had convened the taskforce chaired by Prof MacCraith to mobilise a range of expertise in relevant disciplines and to assist in logistics.

Ms Headon was previously head of corporate affairs at Coolmore Stud Group, a non-executive director at Kenmare Resources, chief executive of the Digicel Foundation Haiti and a director of Murray Consultants. In 2016, she was appointed to the board of Horse Racing Ireland.

She had worked with the residential care sector in Ireland and the UK, and at Murray worked with health clients such as Elan Pharmaceuticals and the-then interim Health Service Executive.