Thursday, 1 April 2021
Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements
Last week, I asked the Minister how many vaccines would arrive in the last week in March and the first week of April. The Minister stated:
I am more than happy to get the Deputy a note on that. What I can tell him is that by the end of March, which is in the next five days, we expect to have received in excess of 1.1 million doses.
I never received any note. What is the point in the Minister even coming to the Dáil? I wrote to the Minister that evening and reminded him to supply me with the note. I wrote to him again yesterday to remind him and, because of today, to give him another chance. That was ignored.
The Minister for Health reports to the Dáil. It is absolutely irrelevant and this whole charade is a waste of time if the Minister is not going to answer questions. What is the point in him saying he will be more than happy to give me a note when he never gives notes, despite being reminded? What the Minister said to the Deputy who spoke previously in respect of figures is rubbish. Transparency is the Minister's friend here. Giving out estimates is what he should be doing. Coming into the Dáil saying he does not want to give out figures is not acceptable.
The Taoiseach went further than the Minister yesterday. By the way, the Taoiseach is also writing me a note today in respect of the figures the previous speaker asked for. The Taoiseach can give the details to me but the Minister cannot give them to the Dáil. What the hell is going on here? The Minister is responsible to Dáil Éireann and the people of Ireland but he is refusing to give out estimated figures for vaccines for the next three months. The whole country is dependent on them. It is not acceptable.
This is not about having confidence in the Minister. This is about incompetence. This is not fair or right for the people working with the Minister who are watching this. The people are being let down. This is incompetence. It goes beyond politics. The Minister has to be accountable to the House. When he is asked questions about figures, he should give them as he knows them at this moment in time. I will not blame him if the figures change. We all know at this stage that the figures change.
I have three other points. The first is the change to the prioritisation.
NIAC made the recommendation and this is fair. I want to know what parameters changed that now say that age is the best way of doing this? What has changed from day one because the parameters do not seem to have changed but the recommendation has? That was my second question.
My third question relates to NPHET, which gave fairly startling figures yesterday on what would happen if our social contacts increase. I accept their figures and their maths. Have we any projections from NPHET based on the vaccines having come in over the next number of months? Are the figures it is giving us based upon the increase of the virus plus vaccines or minus vaccines? This is a critical question. Is NPHET taking into account the volume of people the Taoiseach has told us will be vaccinated, that is 80% of the people will have some vaccination by the end of June? Are these projections incorporating this information?
My final question relates to the Pfizer vaccine and the syringes that are being used. Many pharmacists have said that Zeringe syringes are being used in other jurisdictions which create a zero residual value. In other words, one can get more doses out of them. Why are we not using these syringes? Is the Minister aware of this? For instance, in Holland, the authorities are getting an extra dose, which would mean that hundreds of thousands more doses would be available. Has this been checked out and factored in and if so, why are we not using it? I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.