Seanad debates

Monday, 29 March 2021

Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Statements

 

10:30 am

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail)

I thank Senator Garvey for chairing this debate. I regret that she has been subjected to rudeness by some Senators.Easter is a time of renewal, new life and hope, so it is appropriate that we use our final sitting day before Easter to talk about our line of hope, the vaccination programme. The Minister is, as always, very welcome to the House. I take this opportunity to commend him and his office and Department on all the work being done in the name of eradicating Covid and allowing us to live our lives in a new normal. It is completely wrong that the Minister, or any Minister of any party, would be subjected to threats to him and his family. It is appalling and we stand with him as Minister. It should not happen to anybody.

The vaccination programme is heading to a new phase and today is a red letter day in my house. The O'Loughlins in Cappanargid are very happy because this morning my mother received her second vaccination dose and my brother Cathal, who has Down's syndrome, received his first dose. We feel they will be in a position to go gallivanting, if there is a place in which to go gallivanting, in a month, six weeks or whatever. It gives us as a family great hope. Having spoken to other families and friends, when they are in that position where they can see neighbours and relatives, I know it gives everybody a great lift. We have to remind ourselves all the time that the vaccination programme is being rolled out. I accept that we are the behest of the vagaries of the vaccine production in regard to what we get. It is notable that we are above average in the EU in terms of the roll-out. While I acknowledge that the Minister probably cannot comment on this matter, the EU has let itself down in the procurement of vaccines. It was well behind the curve in putting in its orders and we are all suffering because of that.

Those in nursing homes have had the opportunity to have two visits a week since their second doses came to fruition, which is very important. It is a sign of hope and it means so much to older people and their families.

I have to comment, as others have done, on what happened at Beacon Hospital, where 20 vaccine doses were given to teachers from a private school. It was completely inappropriate and tone deaf to where the rest of us are. I am glad the message went out loud and clear from the Minister and Paul Reid, as CEO of the HSE, that this was completely unacceptable. It meant the clear protocols were not followed and 20 vulnerable people did not get their vaccines when they should have. No private school should have received vaccines from a private hospital because that would mean taking them away from the vulnerable.

To return to where we are in regard to living with Covid, the virus situation remains very fragile. The numbers are still high, unfortunately, and my county is one with increasing numbers. Having gone through an additional lockdown in Kildare, that is something we did not want to see. We have to take that into consideration in respect of any easing of restrictions, which will have to be cautious and limited, but there is room for some change. Allowing some outdoor meet-ups, sport for children and sports such as golf and tennis would be appropriate. The reopening of schools is very important and the fact they will all be back on 12 April is something we have to aspire to.

A total of €2.5 million in fines has been collected from those who have breached the Covid restrictions.I ask that this €2.5 million be put into a specific fund for positive mental health for young people. They are a group who really need extra help and support.

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