Positive and welcome news pertaining to matters Covid-19 emanated this week with formal confirmation of the Athlone Institute of Technology Indoor Athletics Arena as a chosen location for the population rollout of the virus vaccination programme.
One of 37 centres to be selected nationally, the news was confirmed in a statement issued by the HSE which noted that ‘the centre will support the vaccination of the general population in a safe and efficient manner’.
The statement also stated that the ‘centres chosen for the vaccination programme vary in size and operating hours and have been selected based on population density, ease of access, transport and parking. The design and layout of the centres also incorporates learnings from the Covid-19 swabbing centres’.
AIT President, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, stated that progressive third level institution was proud to support the HSE in the implementation of the national Covid-19 vaccination programme.
“The five research arms of our institute have been engaged in the fight against Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, as have many of our staff who were redeployed to help with tracing and testing.
“Now, we have answered the call to act as a designated centre for Ireland’s mass vaccination programme. We are proud to support the HSE in this endeavour by providing the AIT International Arena as a venue for the safe and efficient vaccination of our community,” Professor Ó Catháin remarked.
The news was welcomed by Town Mayor, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, as a beleaguered local and national population aspire for a semblance of daily normality in future times.
“The announcement that we are to have a large scale vaccination centre located at Athlone Institute of Technology is very welcome news indeed. With easy access, plenty of car parking and a vastly sized auditorium readily available, the location is the ideal centre for a large scale vaccination hub.
“While currently vaccines are being administered in healthcare settings and by GPs following the priority list, in the weeks and months to come those individuals from Athlone and the surrounding area will be offered their vaccination in this centre, having self-registered online with further information to follow in this regard soon.
“The HSE continue to work very hard to deliver the vaccination programme nationally and as Mayor of Athlone I am delighted to see our town feature as a key centre for vaccination in this region.
“I would also like to thank the HSE for their ongoing work in the battle against this stubborn and deadly virus. The HSE have assured me that the centre at AIT will be ready well in advance of vaccine supply being available so no time will be lost administering the vaccination to all those who require it and choose to avail of the injection. Work will begin very soon to ‘fit-out’ the AIT International Arena as a vaccination centre.
“The Government have reassured us that in the coming months supply will increase substantially and we will see these vaccination centres across our country operating to full capacity and administering vaccines to the general population, following the Government priority list.
“It is great that we are beginning to see real meaningful hope in terms of our battle to defeat this awful virus. Young and old, it is each individual’s wish and hope that once the vaccination programme is substantially underway to the general population, we can all start living our lives again.
“While we still have some months to go before we can reach that horizon, I really do believe that this news today is just the start of a brighter period of hope and optimism,” the Town Mayor asserted.
Vaccination centres must cross county boundaries
Meanwhile, local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, noted that it was imperative that selected vaccination programme centres facilitate all individuals regardless of their present address.
“I have a fear that these vaccination programme centres could exclude people outside their GP catchment, the county where they are based or outside the relevant community health area.
“This would be totally unacceptable and cause unnecessary difficulty for people accessing the Covid-19 vaccine.
“For example, East Galway is a large geographic area with no vaccination centre. People residing here should be able to register for a vaccination in Athlone or Rosommon town, if this is more convenient for them, instead of having to make a journey into Galway city.
“Providing clarity on the locations of these centres is very welcome but we also need to ensure the public is facilitated with ease of access and the primary focus should be on facilitating HSE management of allocation of vaccine,” Deputy Naughten commented.