Two fully vaccinated staff test positive for Covid-19 at Louth nursing home

Contraction of coronavirus after vaccination possible but ‘you would not get very sick’, says health sector source

Dealgan House in Dundalk, one of the worst hit nursing homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Dealgan House in Dundalk, one of the worst hit nursing homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Two fully vaccinated staff members at Dealgan House nursing home in Dundalk, Co Louth have tested positive for Covid-19 during routine testing of nursing home staff.

The outbreak has led to the suspension of indoor visits at the nursing home.

Dealgan House nursing home said that the two employees had received positive results as part of routine serial testing carried out on a fortnightly basis at the nursing home.

“Both staff members were fully vaccinated, receiving their second doses in February and neither have symptoms of any sort,” said the nursing home in a statement.

“All residents of the nursing home are fully vaccinated. We have temporarily suspended visiting pending advice from public health.”

The second and final doses of the vaccine were administered to residents and staff of Dealgan House in the first week in February when the nursing home’s chief executive Eoin Farrelly said that he hoped that the nursing home had “seen the back of this dreadful disease.”

Deaglan House was one of the worst affected in the country during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic when 22 residents died in an outbreak a year ago.

Covid-19 vaccines prevent severe disease and death but people can still test positive for the virus after being fully inoculated, despite having high levels of protection from serious illness.

“It is possible to contract Covid after being fully vaccinated. It is not see as a vaccine failure unless you are very sick,” said a health sector source.

“It is not 100 per cent that you wouldn’t get Covid; it is just that you would not get very sick.”

Sinn Féin TD for Louth Ruairí Ó Murchú called for the HSE and public health doctors to “engage straight away” and test all residents at the 82-bed nursing home after the positive cases.

“We are obviously aware that the efficacy rates on the vaccines are never 100 per cent. The fact that these people are asymptomatic would lead you to believe that the vaccines have been very successful in avoiding serious sickness, hospitalisation or worse,” he said.

“But this is a warning to all of us that even with the vaccination rollout we need to follow the precautions in relation to social distancing and public health measures.”

Typically, public health doctors carry out a risk assessment of a nursing home before deciding whether all residents of the facility have to be tested following positive cases among staff.

Mr Ó Murchú said the HSE needed to carry out “trace back” testing to see where the infections came from and genomic sequencing to see if the cases are linked to new variants of concern.

Last year’s outbreak at Dealgan House left the nursing home short of staff as it struggled to manage the virus with the HSE even contemplating calling in the Defence Forces and the Red Cross to help at one point. The RCSI Hospital Group temporarily stepped in to run the home.

Vaccinations and lockdown restrictions have led to a dramatic fall in the number of Covid-19 cases and outbreaks recorded in nursing homes and other residential care facilities.

The outbreak in Dealgan House comes after no new nursing home outbreaks were reported in the week to April 10th - the first week with no reported outbreaks of the disease since last year.

The positivity rate in serial testing of nursing home staff has fallen to 0.1 per cent - a level last experienced in July - from a high of 2.3 per cent in January at the peak of the third wave.