Tuesday, 14 December 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
First, there has been constant engagement with the IMO from the leadership of the HSE and indeed the Minister for Health has also been in touch over the week and before that to explore more ways to expand the number of vaccines that can be administered through the GP network and system.
It is important to pay tribute to them and to all those who have worked in this area. Sometimes, some of the commentary does not give due recognition - I am not speaking of anybody here - to the enormous efforts that some people are making out there already in the vaccination programme. When one thinks about it, from 4 October to now, delivering 1.25 million vaccines is a very significant performance in itself. The Defence Forces are, have been involved and will be increasing their involvement in supporting the vaccination programme.
The testing is also being ramped up. It is at 225,000 to 230,000 capacity at the moment and it is envisaged to ramp that up very significantly by the end of the year to 300,000 plus, involving both PCR and antigen testing. The Defence Forces are involved and there is also engagement with the pharmacy union, IPU. Resources are simply not an issue in respect of resourcing the booster campaign and supporting those who are administering the vaccines.
There has been an extensive recruitment campaign underway for the past number of weeks in respect of vaccinators, of part-time and retired people. Basically, all are welcome. We want people to join in the national effort to vaccinate and to help out. There are very structured discussions going on with pharmacists. Not all pharmacists are involved in the vaccination programme. Some 500 plus pharmacies are involved at this stage, together with a very large number of GPs. We want to do more and get more people involved and we will be supportive of those who are involved in administering the vaccine itself and in extending the hours of the vaccination centres to facilitate more and more people being vaccinated.
I spoke to someone this morning who was in Swords who said that everyone waited in line and people were generally in good form and anxious to get the booster. There have been, of course, challenges in other locations but by and large across the country much work has been gotten through.
I want to assure the Deputy that all of the issues raised by her are being addressed in respect of those who could be recruited and we have been assured that that programme of recruitment has been underway for quite some time in getting additional people involved.
The health service itself has also been releasing and redeploying people.
The Deputy mentioned the middle of the summer. Of course, there was a peak in the summer but then it edged down very considerably for obvious reasons and people were redeployed back into the health service.