Monday, 29 March 2021
Covid-19 Vaccination Programme: Statements
Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Fianna Fail)
Every one of us would have taken somebody's arm off to be where we are now six or nine months ago. I hear the frustration and I have the same frustration - we all do. Our vaccinators, doctors, nurses, medical students, the National Ambulance Service and everyone who is involved in this share the same frustration. So many people are doing such an important job. They all feel it. We all feel it. We want the vaccines and we want them now because they will stop the torture that has been the past year for so many people due to the isolation, the loneliness, the pain and the anxiety. I fully understand why people are pushing so hard to get the vaccines as quickly as possible.
I assure the House that we have opted in to all our pro ratatop-ups with the EU. I wish the EU process had been quicker, as do we all. It is right and proper that we focus on countries that are going quicker than us. The main one, because it is so close to us and we have the two jurisdictions on own island, is the UK. Britain and Northern Ireland are going quicker and we would all love it if we were where they are. However, we spend less time thinking about the fact that we are still in the top handful of countries on earth for vaccinations. A very important debate continues around global justice. If the vaccines arrive as they are contracted to do, four in every five adults in Ireland will have been offered at least once vaccine dose by the end of June. It is nearly April. That is where matters stand. Can Senators imagine the countries around the world that are looking at us and are quite confused when they hear us attacking each other and about the negativity around our vaccine programme? Some countries are wondering what year they are going to get vaccines. I am not trying to dismiss this issue. I do not diminish the criticism, the frustration and the push for us to do more and quicker and better. I get that and fully accept all of it. While I believe the teams that running the vaccine programme are doing an outstanding job, of course things have not worked perfectly.
In the limited time I have left, I will try to address some of the questions raised. If the Acting Chairperson wants me to stay a little longer I will be happy to do so.