Donnelly insists clear protocol in place on vaccines after Harris comments

Minister urges colleagues to come to him with questions after criticism over Coombe controversy

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly urged his colleagues to come to him with questions on the initial vaccine allocation strategy directly if they had any. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly urged his colleagues to come to him with questions on the initial vaccine allocation strategy directly if they had any. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has told Cabinet colleagues there is a clear protocol in place for Covid-19 vaccinations, in what some colleagues viewed as a response to comments made by his predecessor Simon Harris.

While Mr Donnelly did not explicitly name his ministerial colleague during the exchange at Cabinet on Tuesday, some sources present at the meeting viewed it as coming in response to comments made by Mr Harris in the wake of the controversy around family members of staff at the Coombe hospital being vaccinated earlier this month.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Harris said that the situation in the Coombe suggested that there either was a protocol about distributing excess doses of the vaccine in place that was not followed, “or more concerning, if there isn’t a protocol in place as to what you do if there are so-called spare vaccines”.

Multiple sources said that Mr Donnelly told colleagues that while there had been commentary about there being no protocols in place to deal with these situations, there were two protocols in place – the initial vaccination priority list published on December 15th, and a more granular list published on January 12th, which delineated in more detail who should be given priority among frontline workers. The second list was not published until after the Coombe incident, but before the incident was reported by The Irish Times on Sunday night.

Mr Donnelly is understood to have told the meeting that the Cabinet had signed off on the initial vaccine allocation strategy, and urged his colleagues to come to him with questions on it directly if they had any.

While some Government sources were of the view that it was “very clearly” a response to Mr Harris’s comments, others present at the meeting said they did not see it that way. It is understood that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien supported the call for consistent messaging on vaccine priorities, which sources said was echoed by Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.