HSE managers have been told to risk-assess staff who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 and to consider transferring them away from contact with patients.
“It may be necessary in some circumstances for unvaccinated staff to work in lower risk areas in a temporary capacity,” according to HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry in a memo to senior colleagues.
Dr Henry said the guidelines would be reviewed in September, and updated in accordance with public health guidance.
With over 500,000 doses of vaccine given to healthcare workers this year, the HSE believes vaccination rates among staff are between 95 per cent and 100 per cent.
But for the minority of healthcare workers who choose not to be vaccinated, “it is necessary to assess the risks associated with potential transmission to patients and staff colleagues”.
There have been 28,719 cases of Covid-19 among healthcare workers during the pandemic, or 11.4 per cent of the total. Of these 786 were hospitalised, and 101 admitted to ICU.
According to one study, healthcare workers have a more than seven-fold higher risk of severe Covid-19 compared with the general population.
Over the past fortnight 185 healthcare workers tested positive for the virus.
Under new HSE guidelines, frontline healthcare workers and others in high-risk areas are required to confirm their vaccination status to their line manager when requested to do so.
The guidelines stress that good infection control, including use of personal protective equipment, is particularly important for those who are not vaccinated, as is monitoring for evidence of infection.
“Reassignment to areas with lower exposure risk is an important option for managing risk of exposure for people who are not vaccinated. This is a temporary reassignment, and is subject to review as the situation changes.”
Manager dealing with staff who are not vaccinated have been told to explore why the person has made this decision and to provide them with expertise to discuss their concerns. The risk of the person acquiring Covid-19 and the risk they represent to other should also be assessed.
Staff who choose not to be vaccinated are asked to indicate their reason, with possible option on the form including perceived risk, beliefs, medical condition, anaphylaxis, medication, concern about possible side effects, “other” or “do not wish to say”.
Another 377 cases of Covid-19 were reported in the State by the Department of Health on Monday. It said 69 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, including 26 patients in intensive care.
Limerick had the highest incidence of the disease in the two weeks up to June 2nd, according to a report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. Its 14-day incidence of 411 cases per 100,000 was more than twice that of the next worst counties, Donegal (181) and Dublin (154).
Sligo, with an incidence of 18, and Kerry (30) had the lowest figures.
The mean age of the 5,806 recorded over the fortnight was 24 years, and 30 per cent had no symptoms when they tested positive.