Childcare workers were vaccinated at Beacon Hospital

HSE says they ‘provide the essential service of childcare to frontline healthcare workers’

Like teachers, childcare workers are placed 11th in the Government plan for allocating vaccines to different groups in society. File Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Like teachers, childcare workers are placed 11th in the Government plan for allocating vaccines to different groups in society. File Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

 

Childcare workers were vaccinated at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin earlier this month.

The HSE’s Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG) said the workers were given the vaccines to avoid waste and because they “provide the essential service of childcare to frontline healthcare workers”.

The Beacon Hospital is at the centre of controversy after it emerged today that 20 teachers and staff from St Gerard’s School near Bray, Co Wicklow were vaccinated there this week, significantly ahead of their place in the vaccination schedule. 

Like teachers, childcare workers are placed 11th in the Government plan for allocating vaccines to different groups in society.

However, the DMHG said that the vaccination of the childcare workers at the Beacon Hospital at the beginning of March was in line with the national guidance on the prioritisation of vaccines for frontline healthcare workers.

“All vaccination centres have been provided with the national guidance concerning sequencing of frontline healthcare workers and are expected to ensure that stand-by lists are in place to support all scheduled clinics,” a DMHG statement said.

“A decision was taken as per the guidance and in keeping with the zero wastage policy to vaccinate the childcare providers located in the Beacon Medical Campus who provide the essential service of childcare to frontline healthcare workers,” it added.

A spokesman for the Beacon Hospital also said that vaccines were administered to childcare providers located on the campus, citing the same reasons.

The spokesman added: “We are currently amending our processes to broaden our stand-by list to ensure that if there are leftover vaccines on any occasion in the future that there are sufficient numbers of identified individuals in a position to reach the Centre within the tight timeframe required.”

The HSE, DMHG and the Beacon Hospital did not respond to a question on how many childcare workers were vaccinated or which facility they worked in.

In its statement the DMHG pointed to a HSE document on the sequencing of Covid-19 Vaccination of Frontline Healthcare Workers dated January 19th, 2021.

DMHG said it says “allows for sequencing of staff in keeping with the zero wastage policy of the vaccine and includes all other healthcare workers, not in direct patient/service user contact, but who provide essential health services other non-patient/service user facing personnel.”

The document makes no mention of childcare workers.

It outlines how vaccines should be prioritised among different types of frontline healthcare workers while saying that “examples are illustrative and are not comprehensive lists.”

It also says “centres should consider establishing standby lists of other people” in allocation groups three and four “who are available at short notice and are randomly selected from the lists for vaccination if for any reason frontline healthcare workers are not available and the alternative is that vaccine dose expires.”

Group three is the over-70s and four - at the time in January - was healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact though this group has since changed.

The Irish Daily Mail reported today that 20 teachers and staff from St Gerard’s, a fee paying school in Bray, were vaccinated at the Beacon Hospital on Tuesday evening. 

The Beacon said the issue arose after 200 HSE staff were double-booked to receive vaccinations at a different centre.

Efforts were made to redirect them to the Beacon and there were 20 doses “leftover” that had to be used within a very short period of time.

It said there were “limitations” on who could receive the doses, as it was the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not used in the vaccination of the over-70s.

“In keeping with the zero-wastage policy, a decision was made to administer the leftover vaccine to teachers who were in a position to get to the centre within the exceptionally short time frame required,” the hospital’s spokesman said.

In a statement on the vaccination of teachers, Beacon chief executive Michael Cullen said: “I recognise that the decision that was made was not in line with the sequencing guidelines in place from the HSE.”

Mr Cullen said the decision “was made under time pressure and with a view to ensuring that the vaccine did not go to waste”.

“I sincerely apologise for the upset that this decision has caused and we are updating our approach to our backup list to ensure that this situation does not arise again,” he said.

Mr Cullen’s children attend St Gerard’s School. The hospital chief executive did not respond to queries from The Irish Times asking if he played any direct role in the teachers being contacted to receive the excess vaccines.