Government must not allow any further delays to vaccine rollout
Following the EMA’s decision to give the green light to the AstraZeneca vaccine, Labour leader and health spokesperson Alan Kelly has asked the Minister for Health to confirm that the 30,000 people who missed out on receiving the vaccine this week would be caught up with next week. In light of the continuing high levels of the virus in the community, Deputy Kelly said that the Government needs to act with a sense of urgency and ramp up the roll out which has been signalled as our only way out of level 5 restrictions.
Deputy Kelly said:
“It is great news that the EMA have given the green light to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Pausing the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine leaves us only 30,000 behind our target of 80,000 a week, so Government must now press with urgency and ramp up vaccination to ensure there are no further delays. I am really concerned at some reports from Government that it could take until April to deal with those who missed out this week. The Government simply cannot allow this to happen.
“We need to keep to our timeline and I am calling on the Minister to guarantee the Irish people that the vaccine rollout will stay on schedule. Given the Government’s ambition that we will vaccinate a million people a month in Q2, it should be as easy as providing extra resources to our GP network – meaning we would have 110,000 people vaccinated by next week.
“This lack of ambition on the part of Government goes to the concerns I have had all along which is that there is no clear or defined strategy in place for the vaccine role out. The structures should be in place to deal with delays in supply, and should be nimble enough to catch up and exceed targets when more vaccines come on stream. It’s clear that the whole logistic and organisational structure isn’t at the scale we require yet. I highlighted last month the struggles faced by the HSE in recruiting vaccinators; the HSE is not hiring retired people and the rate of pay is too low for the workers that we are asking to carry this out.
“Government needs to urgently address this recruitment issue in so that when we start opening our mass vaccination centres, they will be ready to deploy as many as one million vaccines per month. If Government fails at the first bump in the road and if the current vaccination targets are kicked to April, it will dent the confidence of people who have remained patient with and faithful in the Government’s ‘strategy’.
“Ultimately, we need a single person in charge of the vaccine rollout which I called for from the very start. There should have been one minister put in charge of every element of the vaccine roll out – from procurement, logistics, IT infrastructure and recruitment of vaccinators. Had a more robust and strategic vaccinations unit led by a minister been set up, the pause in AstraZeneca could have quickly been addressed.
“There’s a lack of urgency at the political level to deal with the issues that are arising on the vaccination programme and we have missed the boat in having a proper vaccine strategy. The Government is hanging its hat on the vaccination roll out but are not being transparent on what’s working well and where issues are in the system.
“People were told that vaccination is our plan and our only way out of these restrictions. Ordinary people are making extraordinary sacrifices and have reached the end of their tether. Rather than continuing to lecture people, the Government needs to work harder and put some urgency into delivering a vaccine strategy that would inspire hope in people that we can return to some level of normality.”