Monday, 29 March 2021
Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Statements
Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
The quality of the debate, challenge, questions and ideas are always very high. I thank colleagues for their very thoughtful contributions because the reality is there is no monopoly on wisdom when it comes to dealing with this pandemic. Nobody has all the answers, including this Government, me, Ireland or any country around the world. The reality is that this is completely unprecedented and is at a scale and pace that Ireland and many other countries have never seen before. The Government, the Oireachtas and parliaments all over the world are doing their best and are getting some things right. Governments around the world, including ours, are getting some things wrong and missing others. There is no question about that. The more debates and ideas we can have across the political spectrum and in both Houses, therefore, the better.
It has been the most difficult of years for many people. We heard again today about people who cannot attend mass. It is the cornerstone of spirituality in many people's lives and they have not been able to go. People cannot see their friends. The other day I spoke to someone I have known for many years and who would be very susceptible to this disease if he got it. He said he has not been able to hug his children in a year. I do not know about anyone in the Chamber, but I have not hugged my mum nor seen my granny in a year. It will take many years to understand the cost of this pandemic. It has been awful. The vaccine programme is so important because it is going bring an end to this. Six or seven months ago, I spoke to eminent scientists who have been involved in many vaccine programmes over the years and who stated that we might or might not get a vaccine for this disease. They said we might get one in two to five years. They referenced other diseases we deal with all the time, such as the common cold and HIV, for which there is no cure yet. I hear the frustration loudly, as do we all, but the fact that we are standing here today talking about four authorised vaccines - three are currently being used and a fourth one is on its way - with levels of effectiveness beyond anybody's wildest dreams is something profoundly good and hopeful.