HSE cyber attack: Vaccine registration for people at high risk of Covid-19 delayed

Online referrals for non-participating GPs not rolled out due to the HSE cyber attack

Usually, people in cohort seven would be vaccinated by their GP. File photograph: Sao Paulo State Government/AFP via Getty Images

Usually, people in cohort seven would be vaccinated by their GP. File photograph: Sao Paulo State Government/AFP via Getty Images

 

People who belong to cohort seven in the HSE’s vaccine rollout are struggling to get vaccinated, according to a group of high-risk patients who are highlighting their struggles through a Twitter hashtag, #TheForgottenCohort.

Cohort seven includes all those aged 16 to 64 who are deemed high risk in relation to Covid-19 because they have certain medical conditions.

These conditions include chronic heart disease, liver disease, severe asthma, an intellectual disability excluding down syndrome, and severe mental illness.

Usually, these people would be vaccinated by their GP.

However, GPs are delivering vaccines through an opt-in system, and some doctors have not signed up to give jabs to this cohort.

An online portal was supposed to be set up by the HSE so these doctors could refer their patients to mass-vaccination centres.

Due to the HSE ransomware attack, this portal has not yet been set up.

The online registration portal, which is accessible to the general public, is also not accepting registrations from anyone under the age of 45.

Other people are in a predicament where their GP is vaccinating cohort seven, but they are still getting through the other cohorts.

Susan McGrady, who falls into cohort seven and is from Oranmore in Galway, has been consistently highlighting the issue on Twitter.

“We were initially told by [the] HSE website that we would be contacted by our GPs in early May, I got a bit impatient on the 10th and rang mine, to be told they aren’t vaccinating this group and I should wait for my age.

“On Thursday before the hack, the HSE said a portal would be opened that Saturday for non-vaccinating GPs to refer us, but the hack interfered with that.”

In the meantime, Ms McGrady’s GP referred her to the mass-vaccination centre, but she has been told she won’t be seen until July.

“We can’t get any more information and we are left in limbo.”

Dublin City Councillor for Cabra-Glasnevin, Cat O’Driscoll, is another person who is struggling to access the vaccine.

She has severe asthma and has been cocooning for over a year.

While her GP is vaccinating cohort 7, they are still making their way through their cohort 4 patients. “They can’t give me an indication of when I will get the vaccine.”

Ms O’Driscoll says it is “frustrating” to see healthy people 15 years older than her, who have not been cocooning, getting their jabs at mass-vaccination centres with relative ease.

“I live on my own, I haven’t seen many people, most of my engagements are on the phone or Zoom.

“A handful of times I may have gone for a socially distanced coffee with a friend. I haven’t hugged anyone since the last time I saw my family.”

Ms O’Driscoll adds that as a public representative, she is anxious to get back to engaging with her constituents in person.

She feels that GPs already have a heavy workload with their standard patient care, and people in cohort seven should be able to go to mass-vaccination centres. “We were always told pharmacists would be involved too, I don’t see why they can’t administer vaccines in the pharmacy. We need to take the pressure off the GPs.”

Up until this point, Ms O’Driscoll felt that everyone was in the pandemic together. However, due to the slow rollout for this cohort, she says many are starting to feel left behind as society reopens.

In response, the HSE said that people in cohort seven are being vaccinated through their GPs, similar to the arrangements that applied for cohort four.

“A referral pathway has been developed and was communicated to GPs to enable those patients whose primary care teams were not participating in this aspect of the programme to be referred electronically to the HSE and scheduled for vaccination.

“Unfortunately, the putting in place of this electronic referral system coincided with the cyberattack and it has been impacted by the cyber security issue.

“Therefore, it has not been possible to commence to date, but we are working to put alternative arrangements in place as soon as possible.”

The HSE added it could not provide any data on how many people in cohort seven have been vaccinated so far because of the cyber attack.

Figures on the Covid-19 information hub website state that as of May 11th, 2,910 people in cohort seven were vaccinated.

Up to that date, 2,906 people received their first dose, and just four received their second.