Thursday, 1 April 2021
Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements
I am sharing time with Deputy Quinlivan. The Minister stated that he is looking for help from all Members of this House. He has got that help. We have come in here, week in and week out, offering solutions and putting forward ideas. We have asked people time and again to abide by the public health advice. We have discouraged unsafe activity and will do so again. People need help from the Minister and they need him and the Government to get it right. I have said repeatedly that when it comes to issues like test and trace, checks and controls at ports and airports, and the vaccination programme, people do not believe that the Minister and the Government are getting it right.
On the vaccine roll-out, we have discussed over the past number of weeks the problems on the supply side and the problem of some GPs not getting their vaccine allocations on time. Since we last discussed these issues, we have seen the disgraceful behaviour at the Beacon Hospital, where teachers in private schools got vaccinated and members of senior management in the VHI were offered vaccines. We saw what happened earlier at the Coombe hospital. In recent days, we have heard of problems with the IT system, with reports this morning of potential widespread abuse whereby people posing as front-line healthcare workers were able to get vaccinated. How in God's name is that being allowed to happen?
We have had a fundamental shift in the policy on vaccinations, without any consultation with people working on the front line. Those people include teachers, special needs assistants, SNAs, gardaí, and people working in the food sector, retail and many other sectors. Without any consultation whatsoever, they are now being told that the allocation groups they were in have been abandoned. It is shocking that there was no consultation with any of those groups. The message it screams at people is that this is a very shambolic and chaotic process. All of these problems are undermining confidence in the vaccination programme.
The Minister had the opportunity to set out his stall in his opening statement and I have set out my analysis of the situation. I have a number of questions and I ask that he answer them directly if he can. First, what is the number of doses expected to arrive in the State in the month of April? The Minister might answer that question now.