Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Statements

 

10:30 am

Photo of Robbie GallagherRobbie Gallagher (Fianna Fail)

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire go dtí an Teach fosta. The Minister is welcome to the House. I thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to discuss this very important issue in the Seanad.

I sincerely thank the vast majority of citizens of this country who have been doing all they possibly can. Many of them have made great sacrifices in their efforts to contain this deadly virus. Many have lost loved ones in difficult and trying circumstances.

I also pay tribute to the front-line workers and all those who have worked throughout the pandemic for the benefit of us all.As I am sure the Minister is well aware, people are tired and weary, and the vaccine roll-out is the one things that keeps them going. Everyone needs hope and the vaccine is our hope.

In County Monaghan, many GPs have consistently given up much of their free time to roll out the vaccine, which I witnessed at the weekend. It was amazing to see the smiles on people's faces after they had been vaccinated. Many of them were elderly and they looked as if they had been given a new lease of life, which is welcome.

I welcome the information the Minister delivered here this afternoon. He said that we will receive 1 million vaccines in the months of April, May and June, with the old caveat of subject to supply. I appreciate the news that, subject to supply, four in every five adults will have received at least one vaccine dose by the end of June. That is hugely positive information and I sincerely hope that we can live up to those expectations.

I compliment the HSE and the people who have rolled out the vaccine for ensuring that it takes less than seven days for the vaccine to go from its arrival into this country to being administered in somebody's arm. With that news any reasonable individual would cut some slack because the infrastructure has been built from scratch in the middle of a pandemic. Everyone tries to do their best but we must accept that mistakes will always happen. However, we do not have to accept the example at the weekend of what happened at the Beacon Hospital. The person or persons responsible for the incident stuck their two fingers up to the rest of us, to the people who have lost their lives, and to the people with underlying conditions who have not left their homes in 13 months. The people responsible do not care and seem to have adopted a mentality of I am all right Jack, which is very disappointing.

I ask the Minister to comment on a number of things, if possible. Is he happy that we have the necessary infrastructure in place to distribute the 1 million vaccines over the next three months? I spoke to some people who received their vaccine at the weekend and they asked me what can they do after they receive the second dose in the next number of weeks and how will their lives change. Those people need to know what they can do that they are not fit to do at the moment. It is important they receive direction.

I have been contacted by a number of people with queries about an online portal. I ask the Minister to indicate where we are at with an online portal. I think people in the UK have been able to avail of an online portal. I spoke to relations of mine who have lived in the UK for a number of years and they told me that the portal has been hugely successful, so I look forward to an online portal being used here.

I have been contacted by a number of young people abroad. Many of them are school teachers in places like Abu Dhabi and other places of the Middle East and elsewhere. Most of them have received their second vaccination and hope to come home in the summer. Will they have to quarantine or will the fact that they have been fully vaccinated eliminate the need to quarantine?

Finally, as Senator Chambers outlined in her contribution, the role of the Minister for Health is a huge task at the best of times and his has been multiplied by a hundred with the pandemic. I compliment him on his efforts and urge him to keep up his good work.

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