Dáil debates

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Covid-19 Task Force: Statements


5:30 pm

James O'Connor (Cork East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I very much welcome the national Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy announced on Tuesday by the Government.

I would like to raise the point of vaccine allocation sequencing. I welcome the approach of prioritising those who are over the age of 65 and are residents of long-term care facilities. We have seen a rapid spread of Covid-19 over the course of the pandemic in certain areas relating to people who are part of that age group. We must try and deal with that first, where possible, in terms of the vaccination roll-out. We are all aware that it is a major challenge and unfortunately, in terms of fatalities, it has been a difficult experience for many older people in our communities who are very worried about Covid-19.

I have been listening to some of my colleagues here in the House today on the issue of misinformation. That is something, on a political level, that has become a major challenge in Irish politics over the past number of years, but particularly in 2020, which was a general election year. We must be absolutely clear with the public that the vaccination is a clear way for our population to deal with this outbreak of Covid-19 and get on to a future without it, recognising that vaccinations were a major part in the eradication of multiple diseases and illnesses throughout the course of modern human history. It is outrageous that Members of this House are willing to come in here and pander to the message of anti-vaxxers in this country which is disgusting.

The Covid-19 vaccine has seen more investment than any other vaccination in history throughout the planet to deal with this pandemic. The virus has sadly ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the European Continent and North America, and here, in Ireland as well, has sadly ended the lives of so many people with and without underlying health conditions. The message from Government has to be absolutely crystal clear that we need to embrace the vaccination. Also, I would like to say on the record of the House that when it is available to me, I will take that vaccination.

The Minister has put a great deal of work into his role. Few Ministers for Health, as Deputy Stephen Donnelly will be aware, get thanks. People can be easily critical of the job that the Minister is doing.

The Government has done everything it can. Those involved in the task force have been fantastic. I am delighted to see some decent names on it with good experience of working in logistics from IDA Ireland, academia and our universities. That is critically important in ensuring public confidence in the vaccination roll-out.

It is important we continue to look at other areas alongside the vaccination strategy which will take some time before it is available to everybody. It is important we continue research into antigens. We cannot forget that Ireland is home to many of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies. I stand to be corrected but from my recollection nine out of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world have their European headquarters in Ireland. We are at the forefront of the war on Covid-19. We should lead the world in research on this issue, as well as messaging with our European colleagues on further research into this area.

As the youngest Member in the House, as well as the youngest Deputy elected in quite some time, I am hopeful the work we are doing now, as a society and as a backbencher supporting the Government, at an international level will in the future give us a better ability to deal with upcoming illnesses, diseases and new pandemics. Having the template of this task force is good for the country and for public health.

It would be remiss of me if I did not mention the extraordinary efforts put in by our front-line care staff and those working on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic. They have borne the brunt and the consequences of this. We have to support them in every way possible.

I wish the Minister well. The work he is doing will never be forgotten. He might not be thanked for it for some time. I must admit that the one thing I heard many of my colleagues here talking about was around misinformation. It is highly irresponsible for Members of this House, without any basis of fact or science, to be engaging in that style of debate.

I am conscious that this is my final time speaking here for 2020. I wish everybody in the Houses of the Oireachtas and my constituents a very happy and peaceful Christmas. I am very hopeful that next year will bring some better times for everybody.


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