Covid-19: Vaccine rollout in nursing homes to begin on January 11th

Draft HSE timeline suggests 70,000 residents and staff will be vaccinated within six weeks

A file image of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in a  fridge. The nationwide rollout of the  vaccine to nursing home residents and staff in the State will commence on January 11th. Photograph: Getty

A file image of the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in a fridge. The nationwide rollout of the vaccine to nursing home residents and staff in the State will commence on January 11th. Photograph: Getty

 

The nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and staff will commence on January 11th with more than 70,000 people expected to receive doses over a six-week period.

Under a draft timeline drawn up by the Health Service Executive (HSE), seen by The Irish Times, the vaccination of residents in long-term care facilities would be completed by the middle of February.

In an email to members on Wednesday, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) said the HSE had confirmed the vaccine rollout “will commence on a small scale from the end of the first week in January”.

The nationwide rollout of the HSE’s plan to immunise care homes would begin on January 11th, it said.

“The HSE School Vaccination Programme will be assisting with this and it is hoped that over 70,000 people will be offered the vaccine over a 6-week period,” the correspondence said.

NHI represents private and not-for-profit nursing homes, which account for around 80 per cent of the country’s 589 nursing homes.

The first delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will see 9,750 doses arrive in Ireland on St Stephen’s Day, with a further 31,000 doses received a number of days afterwards.

The State then expects to receive around 40,000 doses of the vaccine each week in January and February, with first priority given to residents over the age of 65 in long-term residential care facilities.

Deaths in nursing homes have accounted for around half of the total fatalities from the virus in the State.

Under a draft timeline for the rollout, seventeen nursing homes will receive teams of vaccinators on Monday, 11th January.

The vaccinator teams are not listed as working on the weekends under the draft HSE timeline.

Smaller nursing homes with 30 residents or less will require one team of four vaccinators, with all doses delivered in one day. Larger facilities with more than 120 residents would take three days to deliver the vaccine.

Residents and staff will receive one dose of the vaccine, and then a second dose three weeks later.

Tadhg Daly, NHI chief executive, said the representative group had expected the vaccine rollout to nursing homes to start closer to the end of December.

Nursing home operators were “ready to go” to facilitate the immunisation programme earlier than January 11th, he said.

It was crucial that the vaccine was delivered “safely and speedily” to nursing home residents, he said. “We’re in the final leg, the vaccine is the good news on the horizon,” he said.

Richard Byrne, operations manager of Ashford House Nursing Home, in Dún Laoghaire, south Co Dublin, was critical that the vaccination schedule did not start earlier.

Mr Byrne said it appeared the HSE was taking a “9 to 5 approach to the vaccine,” with a full week being lost at the start of January.

While the need to train staff to deliver the vaccine was given as one reason for the 11th January start date, Mr Byrne said there was no reason training could not have been undertaken ahead of the drug receiving approval from the European Medicines Agency.

Ashford House is a 78-bed nursing home and has not had a confirmed Covid-19 case to date during the pandemic, he said.

“There would be 13 days of the vaccine sitting in freezers, essentially because it’s Christmas,” he said. “This is all happening at a time when cases are rising … There could be lives lost due to this delay,” he said.