Hospitals in south and southwest getting lion’s share of Covid vaccines

Rollout under scrutiny after families of staff at Coombe hospital given leftover doses

GP Mary Behan administering the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 to GP Ellaheebuksh Muhammud Fardeen of VHI Clinic Dundrum, at a vaccination centre in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

GP Mary Behan administering the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 to GP Ellaheebuksh Muhammud Fardeen of VHI Clinic Dundrum, at a vaccination centre in Dublin on Saturday. Photograph: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

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Hospitals in Cork, Kerry and Waterford account for a disproportionately large number of Covid-19 vaccines administered so far, according to figures obtained by The Irish Times.

More than one-third of doses administered up to last Tuesday were given out in hospitals run by the South/Southwest Hospital Group, despite it being only the third biggest of the seven hospital groups by number of employees.

South/Southwest had administered 19,840 doses by then – and 22,000 by last Friday – compared to 12,110 administered to staff at the Ireland East Hospital Group, which has 1,500 more staff, the HSE figures show.

Relative to size, staff in South/Southwest were three times more likely to have received the vaccine than those in the west (Saolta hospital group) and four times more likely than in the RCSI hospital group in Dublin and the northeast.

Among those who received the vaccine in South/Southwest were 10 construction workers at University Hospital Kerry, it emerged last night.

Neither the Government nor the HSE have as yet published detailed figures on vaccine rollout, but the immunisation programme is coming under growing scrutiny following revelations in The Irish Times on Monday that 16 staff family members were among those vaccinated at the Coombe hospital in Dublin.

Wasted

The Rotunda Hospital confirmed on Monday two family members of its staff received leftover Covid-19 vaccines that it feared would be wasted otherwise.

The hospital said 37 people, including GPs and “members of other vulnerable groups” received excess doses. At Temple Street children’s hospital, an “administrative error” was blamed for a number of staff on maternity leave receiving vaccines before other colleagues working in the hospital.

The board of the Coombe hospital met on Monday night to discuss controversy around the maternity hospital administering Covid-19 vaccines to non-frontline healthcare workers, including two children of Prof Michael O’Connell, master of the hospital.

Former master Prof Chris Fitzpatrick called for an independent investigation, saying in a letter to The Irish Times he was “deeply concerned” to learn what had happened.

“It is essential that the public receive greater reassurance, and that the rollout of a lifesaving vaccination programme during this very difficult time is conducted with transparency, equity and accountability, and in accordance with national guidelines,” he said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan told a press briefing the number of people in priority groups being vaccinated in Ireland stands up well to international comparison, but he acknowledged the need for more information about the rollout of the campaign.

Uneven supply

HSE national lead for acute hospitals Dr Vida Hamilton said larger hospitals had received bigger amounts of vaccines due to efforts to use doses “efficiently and effectively”, and supply had been “more uneven than anticipated”.

A lot had been learned since the initial “teething problems”, she added.

The Government is hoping the supply of vaccines can be immediately boosted by having large quantities of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine shipped to Ireland and ready for distribution should it be authorised by the European Medicines Agency at the end of the month.

However, AstraZeneca said yesterday it was unable to “give an exact date when a specific country will receive doses”.

A further 2,121 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Monday night, the lowest figure since New Year’s Day. There were also eight further deaths, ranging in age from 49 to 93.

With about 2,000 Covid-19 patients in hospital and 200 in ICU for much of Monday, Dr Hamilton described the situation in hospitals as “very pressurised but functioning”.