The acceleration of the Covid-19 vaccination programme should allow people in all 582 nursing homes in the country to be inoculated by the middle of next month, Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) has said.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Monday that the programme was being accelerated due to an earlier-than-planned shipment of 35,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, an increase from 20,000, that is earmarked for 20 hospitals and 25 nursing homes this week.
Mr Donnelly said vaccinations will be increased to 40,000 per week as more supplies become available. HSE chief executive Paul Reid said that doses will be given out seven days a week.
Tadhg Daly, chief executive of NHI, said that it was imperative that there would be a seven-day vaccinations in nursing homes "with supply being the only limiting factor."
“We would be hoping for a seven-day roll-out and we would be hoping for all nursing homes to be vaccinated by mid-February,” said Mr Daly.
The Minister has said that the Government is planning to have all residents and staff in nursing homes, about 70,000 people, receive their first dose of the two-dose vaccine.
Confusion surrounded an apparent delay in the roll-out at two State-run facilities in Dublin, Raheny Community Nursing Unit and Hollybrook Lodge in Inchicore, connected with Beaumont and St James's hospitals respectively, not receiving vaccines as planned.
NHI had been under the impression that both homes would start receiving vaccines on Monday based on a dated schedule of vaccinations released last week by the HSE.
Hollybrook said it had never intended to begin its vaccine programme until Tuesday and that a HSE-issued timetable stating Monday was inaccurate. The Raheny home declined to comment as to why it did not proceed but said it intended to do so at some stage later this week.
Sage Advocacy, the organisation offering support services for older people, said the apparent delay had prompted large amounts of calls from the public.
The HSE said that vaccinations would take place this week in 23 residential care facilities, including seven in Dublin, two in Cavan and two in Tipperary.
Sarah Lennon, executive director of Sage Advocacy, said there were some concerns about more Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes.
“There has been a substantial number of calls through to our phone lines in Sage Advocacy today and hearing that the vaccination programme hasn’t commenced on time will cause some anxiety,” she told RTÉ’s Drivetime programme.
“Every day that we miss on the programme is a day really where somebody may be exposed to this quite lethal virus.”
Mr Daly said the health service had to “mobilise all resources now” to ensure all nursing homes receive vaccines and the older, vulnerable population are protected in light of the increased risks from records level of infection in circulation.
“We find ourselves seeking to navigate a very dangerous juncture,” he said.
“Vaccination is in sight for all nursing homes but the multiplying of cases in our communities has a direct consequence for nursing homes, with health experts nationally and internationally stating high-incidence in community has an inevitable impact on nursing homes.”