About 1,000 housebound over 70s still awaiting Covid-19 vaccine – Tánaiste

Varadkar says GPs may be asked to do house calls to assist National Ambulance Service

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said asking local GPs to make house calls or pharmacists to get involved are among the options that could be considered. Photograph: iStock

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said asking local GPs to make house calls or pharmacists to get involved are among the options that could be considered. Photograph: iStock

 

The Government may consider alternative options for the vaccination of housebound older people to assist the National Ambulance Service as about 1,000 people over 70 are still waiting for their first vaccine.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said asking local GPs to make house calls or pharmacists to get involved are among the options that could be considered. He had asked for the issue to be on the agenda for the Covid Cabinet sub-committee for next week and said the issue had also be raised at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday night.

He was responding to Independent TD Denis Naughten who raised the issue in the Dáil. Mr Naughten said the ambulance service started 66 days ago to vaccinate housebound people over the age of 70.

“The plan was to have all the first doses administered by last Sunday week April 11th. I’m still being contacted by people in their 80s and 90s who are still waiting to receive their first appointment,” he said.

Mr Naughten said the HSE locally and regionally “don’t know what’s going on. It’d be easier to find out the third secret of Fatima”.

Frustration

The Tánaiste told him “there are about 1,000 people who are housebound who are still waiting to receive their vaccine”.

Mr Varadkar said “I understand how frustrated people must be, not even knowing the date of their vaccine and they get worried that they will be forgotten entirely but they won’t be forgotten. They will get their vaccine.”

He said that “if it’ s the case that the national Ambulance Service is being asked to do too much and they are being asked to do a lot - whether it’s pop up testing centres or vaccines – in addition to their normal work as an ambulance service, perhaps we need to find an alternative.

“It could be for example to ask local GPs to do a house call and obviously we’ll remunerate them for that or we could ask pharmacists to do it.

“So perhaps if it’s taking this long we need to look at an alternative model to assist the national ambulance service so they aren’t asked to do it all on their own.”

Later during the weekly Dáil update on the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination programme Minister of State for Health Mary Butler said the initial number of housebound over 70s seeking vaccination was over 3,200 but more people had since applied.

She said the ambulance service was operating 10 ambulances for the service, seven days a week with eight appointments daily for each.

She said visits could take up to 50 minutes for each visit and 30 or 40 minutes for ambulances to get from one house to another.

The completion of the first dose is expected in May for housebound patients and June for the second dose.