‘Tired’ GPs mean boosters for some older clients at big centres

While most doctors will agree to give shots for over-70s, small number set to drop out

The Irish Medical Organisation is set to discuss with the Health Service Executive the administration of boosters to the 60-69 age group. File photograph: Getty

The Irish Medical Organisation is set to discuss with the Health Service Executive the administration of boosters to the 60-69 age group. File photograph: Getty

 

Some older patients are likely to have to attend mass vaccination clinics for their Covid-19 booster, rather than have it administered by their local GP.

While the “vast majority” of GPs will probably agree to provide boosters to their over-70s, a small number are “tired” and will likely opt out, according to the chairman of the GP committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO).

Denis McCauley said it “makes sense” for GPs to provide boosters to over-70s as they have the “muscle memory”, having given these patients their first two doses of vaccine.

Dr McCauley said the IMO would discuss with the Health Service Executive the administration of boosters to the 60-69 age group and would not be “behind the door” if asked to be involved in this part of the rollout.

However, he noted, GPs generally were not involved in providing primary vaccines to this age group, most of whom received the AstraZeneca vaccine in mass vaccination centres. It was therefore likely the same arrangements would apply this time around.

The IMO will sit down with the HSE shortly to discuss the “practicalities” of this latest phase of the rollout, he said.

A number of prominent GPs have criticised the HSE’s plan to rely on family doctors for administering boosters to older patients.

Navan GP Ruairí Hanley said the system “cannot cope” with providing boosters to everyone aged over 60 in the coming months.

“That will simply prove impossible in the context of flu season and the existing pressures on the system,” he told The Irish Times.

He called on the Government to immediately activate mass vaccination centres to provide boosters “and not dump the job on GPs”.

Monaghan GP Illona Duffy said the prospect of GPs having to provide more Covid vaccinations “fills me with dread”.

“We’re so busy with normal work, catch-up from Covid delays, surges in viral illnesses circulating in community [and] ongoing Covid infection that its impossible to imagine.”

‘Beggars belief’

Dr Hanley said it “beggars belief” that boosters are not being recommended for healthcare workers. “If a single-handed GP catches Covid, his/her practice will close for two weeks. Their patients will be on trolleys.”

The administration of booster vaccines to more than 800,000 people aged between 60 and 80 years is likely to begin at the start of November, the HSE has indicated.

Up to now, boosters have been provided to three groups only: over-80s; people in residential care aged over 65; and those who may be immuno-compromised. So far, more than 100,000 boosters have been administered.

In excess of 182,000 people are aged 80 and over and 345,000 are in the 70-79 age group. A further 479,000 people are aged between 60 and 69.

At the height of the initial rollout earlier this year, more than 1,500 GP practices were involved in administering vaccines.