Vaccination of family members at Coombe was ‘consensus decision’ – report

Medical Council to review findings of report into vaccine controversy at Dublin hospital

The Medical Council plans to review the independent report into vaccinations of family members at the Coombe hospital in detail and consider its findings.

The council, the regulator of the medical profession, was one of the parties sent the report by the Dublin hospital’s board following the completion of the review.

Brian Kennedy SC concluded in his 39-page report, commissioned by the board, that 16 vaccines were administered to one or more family members of eight staff at the hospital at a time when doses nationally were being prioritised for frontline healthcare workers and nursing homes.

Among the family members to receive the first-dose Pfizer vaccine doses on the night of Friday January 8th were two children of the hospital's master, Prof Michael O'Connell.


The report found that one doctor took vaccine doses home from the hospital and administered them to two family members from vaccine left in a diluted vial they had been using.

The doctor, named as "Consultant B" in the report, is understood to be Dr Carmen Regan, an obstetrician at the Coombe. She has not responded to contacts seeking comment.


Mary Donovan, chairwoman of the Coombe's board, said "in the interests of transparency and accountability" the Kennedy report was published online and copies were shared with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the HSE and the Medical Council.

The report is likely to be considered by the council when it meets next week.

Mr Donnelly has said he is reviewing the report. Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, told The Irish Times that he was awaiting Mr Donnelly's review before making any comment.

The Coombe board described the vaccination of family members, including the two in the family home of a consultant, as "mistakes". Ms Donovan said it "should not have happened".

“Lessons must and will be learnt to ensure that similar issues cannot recur,” said the board.

According to Mr Kennedy’s report, Prof O’Connell told the lawyer that an email he sent to all staff at the hospital on the day The Irish Times first reported the vaccination of family members was not “fully correct and not fully reflecting what happened on that Friday night”. He had told staff in his email that he made the decision to vaccinate the family members.

Public relations

Prof O’Connell said the email to staff was prepared with the hospital’s public relations advisers Murray Consultants in response to the Irish Times article.

He said the public relations advisers had expressed the view that for the staff of the hospital it would be better to say that the decision was one which had come from him as master rather than being a consensus decision in order to protect the others who were present on the evening.

In his report, Mr Kennedy concluded that a “consensus decision” was reached among a group of 11 consultants and staff on the night that leftover doses should be given to family members, but concluded that had Prof O’Connell not agreed, it would not have happened.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent