Thursday, 1 April 2021
Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. As we all know a swift, effective and fair vaccination programme is essential to deal with the pandemic which has unfortunately been with this for more than 12 months. It continues to cause untold hardship in so many ways right throughout this country and indeed the world. People I have spoken to over 80 years of age and other health front-line healthcare workers who have had the vaccine say that it has been transformative. It is heartening to speak to older people to see again the confidence that they have regained in themselves where they hope to get out and get back to a more normal type of life. We are all very glad to know of the very effective results of vaccines. That is clearly demonstrated by the dramatic reduction in infection rates in those groups which have had the vaccine. This is a clear proof of the value, efficacy and complete importance of getting the programme rolled out as soon as possible to all persons who are entitled to the vaccine.
The recent changes announced by the Government on Tuesday night to the vaccination allocation strategy is causing concern to many personnel providing front-line services. On different occasions in the Dáil and in representations to the Minister, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, I have raised the need to prioritise certain front-line workers within the vaccine programme. In those instances I have made representations on behalf of members of the Garda, teachers, special needs assistants and carers. The change to an age-based approach must be fully explained to the representative organisations of these front-line workers. Many of the people to whom I have spoken over the past 24 to 36 hours have put forward legitimate cases for prioritisation and they need answers. These personnel had expectations of getting the vaccine based on their prioritisation pertaining to their work being essential and oftentimes being based in crowded settings. I appeal to the Minister to outline why there has been a change in strategy. I know that it came from the national immunisation advisory committee but it needs to be clearly outlined why this is seen to be a more effective and fairer approach and one that will deal with the concerns of the community at large. I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle.