Thursday, 17 December 2020
Covid-19 Task Force: Statements
This year will go down in history as one of the toughest the world has faced in generations. The election for the Dáil was only in February but it feels like a lifetime ago now. This is a year many of us would like to forget. Ireland has seen more than 76,000 cases of Covid and more than 2,000 deaths from it. The losses endured by thousands of families are unimaginable. Loved ones snatched away by a virus that has swept the globe and left no corner untarnished. The damage to the financial and employment situation of households across the country is almost beyond counting.
There is now a flickering light, however, at the end of the tunnel. The global medical community has come together in a way never seen before. We now have a vaccine that will help break the back of Covid and allow us to start thinking about a future free of this wretched and debilitating illness.
Some have asked how we were able to come up with the vaccine so fast when vaccines for other diseases can take years to create or may never be found. The answer is simple. The world has never had to face a problem like Covid-19. Never before has so much energy, know-how, money and resources been powered into finding an answer to a medical problem. Covid effectively locked down the world. This could not be allowed to continue.
The Government has unveiled its plans to roll out a vaccine to the whole of the State. While I welcome the plan, I would have preferred more detail particularly as to how GPs and the healthcare workforce will be utilised in vaccinating millions of people. Greater clarity is needed on what specific medical conditions will be prioritised and how those who have recovered from Covid already will fit in. Questions remain over the registration process and what is considered an essential business.
As Chair of the Oireachtas health committee, I hope I can be of help in asking some of the questions the public want answered and help to address their fears. It is only natural there will be real fears. There will be those who have legitimate fears about the vaccine. They may be wary of doctors and injections in general. They may be fearful of this new and unknown Covid vaccine and still making up their mind about it. I urge all of those people to listen to the medical experts, to trust in the science and voice their fears to all of us collectively in order we can answer some of their deep-rooted concerns.
There will also be those who will seek to spread false information, to sow fear and doubt. We saw this in the early days of the pandemic. Some groups chose to frighten or sell half-baked ideas to confuse in order to further their own aims and agendas. We cannot allow this to happen again. The mass vaccination programme is the only option we have to stamp out Covid and get life as close to the old normal as we can.
I call on anyone who would knowingly spread disinformation to stop and think about the real damage and harm they are doing. That is a message which must be echoed by all parties and none in this House. Vaccines are safe. They are one of the most effective weapons in the fight against disease. Smallpox, polio and TB are viruses which have been either eradicated or banished to the poorest or remotest parts of the world by vaccines. It is important this work continues. Vaccines are not to be feared. I will be taking that vaccine when my number comes up in the roll-out. I encourage all others to do the same.