Thursday, 17 December 2020
Covid-19 Task Force: Statements
I am sharing time with Deputy Mattie McGrath. This is my last contribution in the Dáil in 2020. I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Ceann Comhairle all the staff and all my colleagues the very best for the Christmas period. It will be a well-earned break for many people following a very difficult time for us all.
On the vaccine, I am delighted to get the opportunity to have a discussion about it. I wish we had a little bit more time but we have something here and we must avail of the opportunity that we have. I have been asked by the media as to whether I was taking the vaccine. My answer was that I was not until I knew what I was taking and I am still strongly of that view. I would advise anybody before they take any medication, especially something as big as this in our lives, that they look at all options and ensure that they are happy. I know that 70% of people are happy to take the vaccine and I will certainly never stop anybody from taking anything like a vaccine of this sort if they are comfortable with it. It would be totally wrong of me to do so.
I am concerned, however, and have conveyed this concern to every media outlet but they have forgotten to run that piece, about the 25% to 30% who are saying that they are either fearful or will not take the vaccine. Some of that 25% to 30% will never be convinced, but we certainly need to spend time addressing their concerns. It would be very wrong of us if we did not allay those fears. I was listening to the initial talk about the vaccine probably three weeks ago when it was very much coming under discussion in Ireland and there was a strong concentration on the 70% and the 30% were forgotten. I am convinced that if we can explain this issue and allay some of the fears that are out there, if it is humanly possible to do that, then that 30% could be 20% or 15%.
My worry is where I have listened to some of the Deputies here tonight who were forceful, such as Deputy O’Connor, and were flippant about the whole thing. That is the wrong attitude to have and that is what happened last weekend. We are all well used to being harassed a bit on social media, but there was a concerted effort by an Oireachtas Member in west Cork and by his political party, together many councillors who were criticising me. They did not know my circumstances and I have an underlying health condition. I cannot just walk in there and take this vaccine and think that it is okay for me. I certainly have to take very strong advice as to whether it is suitable for me. I was talking about the 25% or 30% who have worries and that we work towards bringing that percentage down, if it is humanly possible, but they were rubbishing all of that.
It became a political football by immature politicians. This is not a political football but a very serious vaccine. We desperately need to come out of the position that we are in with Covid-19. I urge every politician who is in the Oireachtas or who is a county councillor to consider everybody. If someone comes before me on the street and says that they are taking the vaccine I will say well done to them. Equally, if someone says he or she is worried about it, I will work with that person to try to allay his or her worries. We have to be sure to act in a very mature way here because some have acted in a very immature way. We need to work with the people and not work against them.