The Minister of Health has been asked to allow nursing home residents to select a loved one for the Covid-19 immunization program when it begins in January.
The proposal means that each of the country’s 30,000 nursing home residents will nominate one relative or friend as their “immunization buddy” to ensure they can continue to visit while waiting for the rest of the population to catch up with the immunization program.
The Nursing Homes Ireland trade group raised the issue last week with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, asking him to consider the proposal. Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland, said he wanted a measure introduced early in the vaccination program to ensure the well-being of residents.
The Sunday Independent may disclose that the first vaccine deliveries to the state – expected in early January – will be enough to immunize all nursing home residents and nursing home personnel, according to those working on the plan.
The Pfizer vaccine, developed in collaboration with BioNTech, is awaiting conditional approval by the European Medicines Agency until December 29, with the first batches scheduled for delivery to Ireland shortly thereafter.
The first batch of vaccine – requiring two doses – will contain 300,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 150,000 people. If, as widely expected, the vaccine is approved, it is possible that by the end of January, the tens of thousands of the most vulnerable in the country – after receiving both doses three to four weeks apart – will be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of January.
However, it is expected that mass vaccination will not begin until there are sufficient vaccine stocks in the country.
In the meantime, the National Ambulance Service is expected to play a key role in the rapid administration of the vaccine to nursing home staff and residents in January.
“National Ambulance staff are competent and trained to administer the injections, and have done an amazing job with 300,000 tests in the community,” said one source.
Vaccine rollout plans have intensified as the National Working Group on Covid-19 Vaccines prepares to present an implementation plan to the government on Friday.
The Defense Forces confirmed that the army’s supreme commander, Lieutenant Colonel Louis Flynn, is on a task force to “support the Health Service Executive in future Covid-19 tasks.”
Informed sources said the Armed Forces are to play a key role in logistics development. Members of the armed forces are expected to help distribute the vaccine to local testing facilities which will be converted into vaccine testing facilities.
Military medical personnel who were trained in taking patient swabs for Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic are expected to undergo training in administering vaccines, the source said.
The Health Service Executive is also restructuring its internal Covid-19 Immunization Implementation Working Group, which has surprised stakeholders.
MEPs were told last week that, pending restructuring, the planned meeting scheduled for tomorrow was postponed and that sub-groups were being included.
In response to questions this weekend, the HSE said: “All HSE vaccination work is progressing and we are continuing our collaboration with the Covid-19 High Level Immunization Task Force led by Prof. Brian MacCraith ”.
The exact details of who will be given priority for the vaccine are likely to be determined by the government this week.
Sources said that despite their indispensable worker status, ministers did not expect them to skip the line, although one minister privately speculated that President Michael D. Higgins (79) could be vaccinated in the first wave.
Last Thursday, the National Team on Public Health (Nphet) considered a joint document from the Department of Health and the National Advisory Board on Immunization, which outlined a provisional priority list for vaccines. Prioritization, also known as sequencing, will be based on who is most at risk of the virus, and allocation will depend on the effectiveness of each vaccine in different types of people.
Based on this logic, most government officials expect it will mean nursing and nursing home residents and staff come first, followed by healthcare workers and the elderly with underlying conditions.
Officials believe the tracking system will be critical in tracking mass vaccination of the population once this phase of the program begins.
Officials do not expect the national vaccination information system that the HSE is currently working on to be ready in time, but admits, “we need an IT system.”
This system will be used to schedule vaccinations, record some personal information and list the vaccines they have received. He will also have to generate an invitation for them to come back for a second dose if necessary, depending on the vaccine they received. Maintaining such a database may require the disclosure of the person’s PPS number, but this has not yet been decided by the task force which is getting advice on data and privacy issues.
People will also need to have a record that they have been vaccinated – a so-called vaccine passport – but the exact nature of this is still not clear.
Separately, the latest Kantar poll reveals that just over half of the population (52 percent) have expressed reservations about adopting the vaccine. Some interviewees are concerned about the haste in which the vaccine was developed. While for others there is a feeling that perhaps this is too good to be true.
Those who are more concerned are more likely to be women (57 percent), people descending the socioeconomic ladder (C2Des – 56 percent), and those living in Connacht / Ulster (56 percent). Conversely, those who believe the most in the vaccine are professional classes (AB – 50), Older (46), Men and Dubliners (45 and 43 respectively).
This is because it was announced yesterday evening that a further 13 people in Ireland had died from Covid-19, according to figures released yesterday evening. The Healthcare Oversight Center said it was also informed of a further 456 confirmed cases of the virus, the highest daily figure since November 16.
This means that there have been 2,099 Covid-19-related deaths and 2,048 confirmed cases in the last week since the start of the pandemic in Ireland.
Since yesterday at 2 p.m., 231 patients with Covid-19 were hospitalized in the hospital, including 28 patients in the intensive care unit. Five patients have been hospitalized in the past 24 hours.
Of the new cases, 197 occur in Dublin.
Donegal reported 37 new cases. There were 33 in Limerick, 21 in Louth, 20 in Kilkenny, and the remaining 148 cases are spread over 21 other counties.