Minister to get priority vaccination review results

Taoiseach says not a political matter as SF calls for family carers to move up list

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) will advise the Minister for Health today on the results of its review of who should be prioritised to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Martin said Stephen Donnelly had written to the committee to look again at the sequencing of the list of the 15 groups in order of priority for receiving the vaccine.

“My understanding is that Niac will be responding today in terms of the sequencing of those who in Niac’s view should be prioritised in relation to vaccinations,” he said.

And he insisted that there had been “no Ministerial or Government involvement in the location of vaccination centres” as concerns were raised about the list of 37 large hubs issued on Tuesday.


“There’s no necessity to be turning this into a political football,” he said as concerns were raised about some counties having two centres while others with large population centres had only one.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Donnelly had announced a review of the vaccine priority list of 15 groups and it was now “absolutely essential that family carers are given their place as part of this reconfiguration”.

She called for clarity for family carers that they would be prioritised in the vaccination programme. It was a “punch in the stomach” for them to be told they would have to wait to be vaccinated along with the general population.

Mr Martin said he empathised with and fully shared concerns about the plight of family carers. He said he regrets “the politically charged manner” in which it was raised.

Mr Martin also said it was not an issue to be dealt with by the Oireachtas.

“I didn’t think the Dáil on its own was going to decide on who gets vaccinated first in a political way,” he said.

Ms McDonald cited the case of Mike Molloy, a carer for his mother who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Mr Molloy said he was part of the “forgotten frontline” of hundreds of thousands of carers.

“We live largely like prisoners under some form of house arrest for people for whom the consequences of Covid can easily be serious illness or even death,” she quoted him as saying.

Ms McDonald said the Oireachtas health committee had unanimously agreed to write to Niac on prioritising family carers for the vaccine, “because family carers are frontline health workers, and they deserve to be recognised as such”.

She said it “makes sense” that family carers should be prioritised in the same way as carers employed by the HSE.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall referred to a Sunday Times interview the Taoiseach gave in which he said a robust approach was needed to tracking the infection pathway of each case backwards from the point of diagnosis.

“It’s quite extraordinary that you’re only talking 12 months into Covid about tracking down where the virus is being transmitted” when the Opposition had called for it for a very long time.

She said the National Public Health Emergency Team called for retrospective funding last August for retrospective tracking and tracing. That work would be done by public health doctors but they had been underfunded and “this service has been starved of funding for many, many years”.

The Taoiseach said that testing and tracing had to be established “from scratch” when the pandemic began. He acknowledged the lack of funding for public health but said funding had now been provided to recruit personnel and discussions are under way with consultants on public health pay.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times