Dublin hospital gave leftover vaccines to 16 relatives of staff

Two children of Master of Coombe maternity hospital understood to be among those vaccinated

The Coombe said it followed Government guidelines on the day and focused on the two current priority groups. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Coombe said it followed Government guidelines on the day and focused on the two current priority groups. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The master of the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin has apologised after it emerged the hospital gave Covid-19 vaccines to 16 family members of staff.

Prof Michael O’Connell, the hospital’s manager, said he now regrets that relatives of hospital employees were vaccinated with doses left over on Friday, January 8th after more than 1,100 doses were given to frontline staff, GPs and local community health workers.

Two of the recipients are understood to be Dr O’Connell’s children, one of whom is college-going age, and is a paid part-time worker in his private medical practice. The other works intermittently in the hospital as an unpaid worker.

In response to questions submitted by The Irish Times, the consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist said in a statement the decision to use the doses already made up as part of the roll-out of vaccines at the hospital that day was made to ensure no vaccine “was wasted”.

“Had they not been used they would have been discarded. I was keenly aware of that and throughout the evening and from 9.30pm onward I personally made every effort to prioritise and identify additional frontline workers and followed all measures available to me at the time,” he said.

“In hindsight, as Master I deeply regret that family members of employees were vaccinated and for that I wholeheartedly apologise.”

The hospital said that among the 16 recipients, nine were over 70 and the remaining seven were “of varying age”. It would not identify the individuals.

Prioritisation

The Health Service Executive is currently prioritising people aged 65 and older in nursing homes and other care settings and frontline healthcare workers due to the limited supply of vaccines available.

The Coombe said it was able to produce more than 120 additional vaccines, beyond what was anticipated, from its supply of vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on January 8th.

The hospital said the HSE vaccination booking system did not go live until the following day and so it was not possible to pre-book vaccinations and to be certain of the doses required.

“The team at the hospital proactively contacted the HSE to inform them of the additional available doses and actively sought out frontline workers to vaccinate,” it said.

The Coombe said it followed Government guidelines on the day and focused on the two current priority groups.

“That evening there were 16 vaccine doses that had been made up [reconstituted] remained, and to ensure that vaccines were not wasted they were administered to family members of employees of the hospital,” it said.

One staff member said: “It’s disgraceful that the master of the hospital arranged for his children to get the vaccine.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he would be seeking a full account of what happened with the vaccine rollout at the Coombe from the chairman of the hospital’s board.

Mr Donnelly said he was first made aware of the issue on Sunday night.

“Trust in the vaccine programme is of critical importance and what happened should not have happened,” he said.

“Our vaccine allocation strategy clearly sets out a priority list for vaccination - and that’s currently for frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff of our long-term resident care facilities.

“It does not include family members of healthcare workers.”