Travel vaccine firm frustrated by State’s refusal of offers to help

Director of Tropical Medical Bureau says drive-through operation could inoculate 300 a day

The doctor behind one of the State's leading travel vaccination operations has said his team have the experience and capacity to administer thousands of Covid-19 vaccines each week but his offers of help have been repeatedly ignored by the Department of Health and the HSE.

Dr Graham Fry, the medical director of the Tropical Medical Bureau (TMB), said he had a team of medical professionals experienced in the administration of vaccinations operating at 20 clinics across the State who would be in a position to offer support as more vaccines become available.

He said he had made contact with the Department of Health and the HSE on numerous occasions going back to last September offering to assist in any way with the vaccination rollout strategy and actually administering the vaccines.

However, he said that apart from terse acknowledgements of the correspondence, no meaningful communications has taken place.

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He said a TMB drive-through operation in Leopardstown could vaccinate up to 300 people each day while a similar operation in in Kilkenny could also be put at the immediate disposal of the rollout programme.

He pointed out that he had a team of “highly trained and experienced vaccination doctors and nurses, with 20 clinics and drive-through facilities nationwide and a mobile vaccination service. Yet, the HSE and their recruiters are signing up vaccinators with no vaccination experience”.

“I don’t understand why they have not come back to us,” he said.”Maybe it is because we are a private company and not linked to the HSE?”

However, he stressed that financial gain was not behind his offer. “This is not about making money, this is about getting the vaccines into people as fast as we can so we can all get back to normal.”

Dr Fry also expressed concern that older people who are more vulnerable to Covid-19 are being sent into busy vaccine centres “despite the fact that they have been cocooning for months” and he suggested that many in that cohort could more safely get the vaccine in drive-through centres which could easily be set up.

TMB administered an average of 200,000 vaccines each year and provide travel and non-travel vaccination and screening services to various Government departments and to frontline services including Garda recruits.

In response, the HSE said it was working with “a range of stakeholders and groups” to ensure the maximum amount of vaccinators are available as the vaccine rollout programme expands.

A spokeswoman said its primary focus was a national recruitment campaign for the mass vaccination programme however she added that “all offers of support, including the Tropical Medical Bureau, are received with gratitude and are considered carefully by the HSE.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor