Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

 

2:00 pm

Photo of Mary Lou McDonaldMary Lou McDonald (Leader of the Opposition; Dublin Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

However, I might get a more positive response from An Taoiseach if I were attired in that manner. In any event, happy Christmas in advance to all.

I wish to raise with the Taoiseach his Government's management of the Covid booster roll-out. This morning, on his way to Cabinet, the Taoiseach said it is now a case of all hands on deck because of the Omicron variant, but his urgency comes late in the day. The truth is we needed an all hands on deck approach over two months ago, long before the emergence of the Omicron variant, because at that stage we knew we were facing into a difficult winter. We have known for quite some time that an efficient booster roll-out would be needed to protect people and to safeguard our progress. The fact is the Government's lack of forward planning has led to real issues with the roll-out of the booster. We have seen problems with the alignment of the booking system between the HSE, GPs and pharmacies. This means people have received multiple appointments which stay on the system even when people try to cancel. One person has reported receiving nine appointments and has been declared a no-show for each one, despite no longer living in the State. There have been many instances of people receiving up to five appointments, so I am glad to hear that is being updated, but it is late in the day. The lack of Government planning has also hit the number of vaccinators we have. We are down 500 vaccinators since the summer, which means the booster campaign is now operating at two thirds the capacity of the original roll-out.

How has this happened? Clearly, the Government made no contingencies for maintaining capacity in the vaccination network, which is madness. We should not now be facing the need to scramble for vaccinators again. That capacity should have been hardwired into the system. Two years on there is still a lack of preparation and leadership from the Government. That is why we see winding queues and big delays outside vaccination centres. It is why some people have been turned away from the centres and why we are now in a rush to get out doses that are close to expiring. We should not be in this position. All the evidence reflects that the vast majority of people want their boosters. The problem we have is a Government that moves far too slowly and is always playing catch-up. We saw it when it came to use of antigen tests, we saw it when it came to the ventilation of our schools and we see it now again with this booster campaign.

Tá an Rialtas ag bogadh go rómhall ar an bhfeachtas teanndáileoige. Tá an t-am le haghaidh fógraí móra thart. Tá sé thar am anois dul i ngleic leis seo. Tá sé thar am na hacmhainní atá ag teastáil a chur ar fáil chun go n-éireodh leis an rolladh amach. The Taoiseach says it is all hands on deck, but the time for big announcements and big targets is over. It is now time for delivery. He says the Government will ramp up the number of vaccinators. Will he tell us by how many? Will he tell us when they will be in place? Will he tell us what additional supports will be given to GPs and pharmacies? Will he guarantee the problems experienced with the appointment system will not be repeated as the campaign is accelerated?

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