Politicians shouldn’t mess with order of vaccinations, Harris says

Public debate continues over Ministers receiving vaccine as Washington visit looms

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said his view is that ‘we should always be guided by medical advice’. File photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said his view is that ‘we should always be guided by medical advice’. File photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

 

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris has said he doesn’t support “politicians dickying around” with the order of vaccinations in order for the Cabinet to be inoculated.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he expects he will have to be vaccinated if the annual trip to Washington for St Patrick’s Day celebrations goes ahead.

US president Joe Biden is among world leaders who have already been vaccinated.

Two Cabinet members here – Charlie McConalogue and Helen McEntee – have contracted Covid-19 and recovered within the last two months and there has been public debate on whether or not the Cabinet should be vaccinated.

Mr Harris said his view is the same as with any other group of workers which is, “we should always be guided by medical advice”.

He added: “When I was health minister I didn’t support – and I don’t support now – politicians dickying around with the order of vaccinations.”

He said it should be based on advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) who in turn advise chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Mr Harris also said: “The Taoiseach in my view absolutely should go to Washington if he is invited and any supports that are required to ensure that can happen, they should absolutely be forthcoming.

“But NIAC are the people who should decide the prioritisation vaccinations.”

Earlier this week, virologist Dr Cillian de Gascun, speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, said the Cabinet should be vaccinated as they are key workers and decision makers.

However, HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry was less supportive of the idea at a press conference on Thursday.

He said that NIAC has a framework document against which anybody who is deciding on the issue can be fit in, whether they’re a Cabinet minister, someone in residential care or a healthcare worker.

Dr Henry said: “For us there was learning from that first rollout among hospital groups.

“We knuckled down on our hospitals and other vaccination centres to try and adhere to that framework as much as possible.

“Of course the Cabinet are key decision makers, but the integrity of that document is important in building trust and confidence.”