Healthcare workers who refuse vaccination can be removed, says HSE chief

Health and Safety Act allows for the removal of staff from frontline positions

 AstraZeneca vaccines are stored and prepared for vaccination at the Region Hovedstaden’s Vaccine Center in Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photograph: Liselotte Sabroe/EPA

AstraZeneca vaccines are stored and prepared for vaccination at the Region Hovedstaden’s Vaccine Center in Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photograph: Liselotte Sabroe/EPA

 

HSE chief executive Paul Reid has suggested that healthcare workers who refuse to take the vaccine may be removed from their posts.

Mr Reid said it was “inexcusable” for any healthcare worker who works with patients not to take the vaccine.

He said everyone had a right to refuse a vaccine if they wished, but the Health and Safety Act allowed for workers to be removed if they were regarded as a threat to other people.

The act allows for a health and safety risk assessment to be carried out and if a local manager deems that person is a risk to patients “the only alternative will be for that member of staff to do something different”.

So far 150,789 vaccines have been administered to frontline healthcare staff up to Monday evening.

Of those, 85,041 received the first dose and 65,478 have been fully vaccinated.

Mr Reid stressed that the GP vaccination programme had seen near universal take up in nursing homes and more than 90 per cent among frontline healthcare workers.

A further 22,000 healthcare workers will receive a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine next week and 3,000 will receive a second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

Reacting to a doctor on RTÉ’s Liveline programme who said he would not administer the vaccine to his patients, Mr Reid said it was “quite shocking” that a doctor would take such a course of action and alternative arrangements would be made.

Dr Gerard Waters, a GP at the Whitethorn Clinic in Celbridge, Co Kildare, told the programme that he was a “conscientious objector” and would not be recommending the vaccine to his patients.

Mr Reid said the list of over-70s in the State is on the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS) system and Dr Waters’s patients will be contacted separately before they receive their vaccines.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Dr Waters confirmed he would not administer the vaccine on the basis he believed it untrustworthy and unnecessary.

“My problem primarily is that I don’t think the pathogenicity of Covid is sufficiently severe to a) cause lock downs or b) to use a messenger RNA [vaccine],” he said, expressing concern over its safety.

Playing down the severity of the virus, Dr Waters said questions remained as to why children did not die, and said he did not know anyone who had died. He said postmortems should have been carried out on everyone whose death was linked to Covid-19.

He also confirmed he did not refer patients for Covid-19 tests. “I have decided not to get involved with the whole thing from the beginning.”