HSE staff who refuse Covid-19 vaccines may be redeployed under new proposals

No plans by HSE to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for health workers

Over 90 per cent of frontline healthcare workers have taken up the offer of vaccination, says the HSE

Over 90 per cent of frontline healthcare workers have taken up the offer of vaccination, says the HSE

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Healthcare staff who refuse to be vaccinated face redeployment under proposals being examined by the Health Service Executive.

Staff who fail to confirm they are vaccinated could be moved out of patient contact depending on the outcome of a risk assessment, under proposals being finalised.

Healthcare workers who are not vaccinated could escape being redeployed if they cannot be replaced due to staff shortages or specialised qualifications, but there are no plans to make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for healthcare staff.

Last month, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) proposed a phased approach to healthcare workers who opt not to take the Covid-19 vaccine, starting with the provision of information, one-to-one conversations, testing and additional PPE.

It comes as the State moves forward with the latest round of adjustments to the vaccine programme, approving investment of almost €191 million in vaccines for booster shots and subsequent campaigns in the future.

Cabinet approved plans to purchase 4.9 million doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine in 2022, and the same again in 2023. This would be enough to fully vaccinate 2.45 million people each year, and Ireland will have the option of buying an additional 9.8 million doses in the same period.

Boosters

The Government said it is likely boosters will be needed for a “very high proportion of the population” to combat variants and deal with waning immunity. Jabs will also likely be extended to under-16s. Cabinet was told there are currently 860 trained and available vaccinators, with 450 needed in May. Just over 1.6 million vaccines have been given out up to May 2nd, Ministers were told on Tuesday. Thirty of 38 vaccination centres are now up and running, with the remainder due to open by May 10th. Between 220,000 and 240,000 vaccines will be given this week.

Elsewhere, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is to consult the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on the latest changes proposed to the vaccine programme. The HSE has proposed a plan that will stick to the age-based approach, but offer vaccines to younger people currently generally recommended only for the over-50s.

With vaccination an opt-in process, the HSE does not know how many staff have refused inoculation. It says over 90 per cent of frontline healthcare workers have taken up the offer of vaccination.

Some healthcare workers have said they wish to choose which vaccine they take, but the HSE had told unions this is not possible.

Patients are entitled to ask about the vaccination status of a healthcare worker, but there is no obligation on the member of staff to disclose what is regarded as sensitive personal health information.

Although cases of Covid-19 among healthcare workers have plummeted since mass vaccination started, 146 cases were reported in this cohort in the second half of April.

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