Tánaiste appeals for ‘patience with HSE’ in ‘long road ahead’ for vaccination

Varadkar says family carers should be prioritised after top two priority groups

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty clashed in the Dáil over delays in the rollout of the vaccination plan

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty clashed in the Dáil over delays in the rollout of the vaccination plan

 

Family carers should be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination after healthcare workers, the over-70s and those under 70 with underlying conditions, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said.

He also said that 500,000 people will have received their first vaccine by the end of this week as he acknowledged the delays in vaccine administration after weekly targets were missed.

A consignment of 25,000 AstraZeneca vaccines did not arrive last week as expected but would be delivered by the end of the month.

There is “a long road ahead” and “there will be weeks when we fall behind target and weeks when we go ahead. We need to be patient and supportive of the HSE.”

He was responding to Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty who joined increasing criticism of the delays in the rollout of the vaccination programme and said it was “increasingly clear that in problems in relation to vaccination rollout go well beyond delays in supply”.

Mr Doherty said last week the Minister for Health said they were on target to administer vaccines to all of those aged over 85 but by the end of the week “he rolled back on that position” and missed the target.

GPs are seriously concerned about the “shambolic communications” when “they have not been provided with a single point of contact in relation to co-ordinating the rollout”, he said.

Practices have been promised vaccines on certain days that do not arrive. “That leaves GPS was making hundreds of phone calls cancelling vaccination appointments for those vulnerable elderly patients, and this is definitely not acceptable,” Mr Doherty said.

The Donegal TD also called for family carers to be prioritised for vaccination. Their case is a “strong one” he said highlighting a number of cases including a carer looking after an elderly father for 10 years who suffers with Parkinson’s disease and dementia and whose mother is seriously ill.

The career said “if I get sick there is no one to care for them”.

Mr Varadkar said that “if you move someone up [the priority list] by definition you have to move someone down”.

During sharp exchanges he accused Mr Doherty of “playing politics” with the priority list and said he never identified who would go down the list to allow carers move up.

But Mr Doherty told the Tánaiste “the only person playing politics is yourself”.

The TD said he knew the risks for carers of vulnerable children and “some of them are very close to me”.

Mr Doherty also said the argument about AstraZeneca did not wash because it was not being supplied to over 70s.

Mr Varadkar said the vaccine was being supplied to health workers. “Really at the moment two groups, healthcare workers, [and] the over-70s and under-70s with medical conditions as they are ones at most risk of getting sick and dying”.

But, he said, “we have asked Niac [National Immunisation Advisory Committee] to give consideration to prioritising family carers once those groups have been vaccinated because they should be prioritised”.