People with serious illnesses not getting priority under vaccination roll-out, warns McDonnell

Former mayor calls for under 70s with cancer or other illnesses to be included among those getting the first Covid-19 vaccinations

The HSE Covid 19 vaccination centre being constructed at the Galway Race Course Ballybrit last week. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

The HSE Covid 19 vaccination centre being constructed at the Galway Race Course Ballybrit last week. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

People with serious illnesses and carers are not being given the priority they need under the current vaccination roll-out, which should be focussed on "the most vulnerable people and those most at risk".

This is the view of Independent Galway City East councillor, Declan McDonnell who has submitted questions on these matters for answer at the next meeting of the HSE West Regional Health Forum.

There has already been considerable controversy over the Government's plan to have just one mass vaccination centre for the whole of County Galway - the second largest county in Ireland, with the third largest city in the State - for location at Ballybrit Racecourse. By contrast Cork will have five centres, Dublin four, and Kerry, Tipperary, Westmeath, and Wicklow will have two each.

Now serious questions have been raised about how the vaccinations are to be administered, with Cllr McDonnell [pictured above] calling on the HSE to re-think "the order of priority for getting the jab", and adding, "we need better targeting of those being vaccinated against Covid-19".

The current vaccine roll-out is based largely on age groups, and certain front line workers, but Cllr McDonnell said this narrow focus is not always compatible with vaccinating those who are most vulnerable and/or who have underlying conditions.

“Take a person who is 40 years old with cancer," he said. "They are hugely at risk from any infection and yet don’t come into the reckoning until after everyone aged 65 and older — many of whom are at the peak of their health and would have no difficulty waiting their turn for a few weeks — and certain other key workers."

Vaccination Centre Ballybrit MAIN

Cllr McDonnell also raised the issue of those caring for older people. "They may be calling into the house, twice or three times a day," he said, "or there might be a number of carers calling in to look after that person, and these people are calling to a number of client houses each day."

He said the thousands employed by private healthcare companies should receive high priority for vaccination, as should those non-professional carers looking after members of their own family in the home.

East-west divide

Vaccination Centre Ballybrit 2

Cllr McDonnell has also queried if there was any consultation with people in the regions, such as the head of infectious diseases control with the Saolta Health Group, when the priority lists for vaccination was being drawn up. “The makeup of the population in the area stretching from Donegal down to Galway, for instance, is very different from that on the east coast, with so many more living in relative isolation," he said.

The councillor believes that there is "no proper plan for bringing the vaccine to these areas", when the local doctors might only have relatively small numbers of people over 70 compared with practices in Dublin.

"There is talk of bringing these small GP practices together in a hub, but this could involve a lot of difficult travel for vulnerable people who have basically been confined to their homes for the past year," he said.

Cllr McDonnell has also tabled a question for the HSE West Forum asking if private hospitals are being used to full capacity to tackle waiting lists for elective surgery and what plans are in place to use these facilities to tackle waiting lists in the coming months.

'Concerning'

Calls for the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and the HSE to re-think plans for one mass vaccination centre for Galway have been made throughout this week.

Fine Gael Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon, said this will force people living outside the city to "travel long distances for vaccination, causing potential traffic issues". Both he, and Sinn Féin Galway East representative, Louis O'Hara, have called for a vaccination centre for the east of the county and for the Connemara region to be established, alongside the centre at Ballybrit.

"If we want to ensure that there is a large uptake of the vaccine we need to make it accessible to people," said Mr O'Hara. "This means everyone should have a vaccination centre a reasonable distance from their home. We shouldn't be asking people from east Galway or Connemara to be traveling for an hour or longer in some cases to receive their vaccine. It will be particularly difficult for people who don't drive or who rely on public transport to make their way to the centre."

 

Page generated in 0.3138 seconds.