Thursday, 18 February 2021
Department of Health
250. To ask the Minister for Health the systems in place under the Covid-19 national vaccination strategy to address conscientious objection by doctors to vaccine administration; the reassurances his Department can give patients that this not-unexpected development has been factored into the planning, delivery and communication of that strategy; the guarantees he can give persons that conscientious objection will not impede them in their direct access to the vaccine locally; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9066/21]
251. To ask the Minister for Health the public information strategy in place or planned to address comprehensively the safety issues raised in conscientious objection by doctors in order to maximise public trust and public confidence in the Covid-19 vaccines for the best possible public health outcome in the pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9067/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 250 and 251 together.
The Department of Health has published the National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, which outlines Ireland’s high-level plan for safe, effective, and efficient vaccination of the population, while safeguarding continued provision of health and social care services.
The National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy, which was prepared by the High-Level Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccination, was signed off by Cabinet on 15 December 2020.
Operational responsibility for delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out lies with the Health Service Executive (HSE).
As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly, as soon as possible.
252. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to doctors here refusing to refer patients for Covid-19 testing due to deeply held beliefs regarding the virus; the public health systems in place to address a possible refusal to refer patients for testing for any disease on a personal belief basis, including for a virus causing a pandemic; his views on whether a refusal to refer patients for Covid-19 or other testing due to personal beliefs and against prevailing public health advice as constituting an unnecessary and avoidable risk and potential hazard to public health, particularly in a pandemic; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9068/21]
I am not aware of GPs refusing to refer patients for clinical testing, other than the individual case reported recently in the media. Referrals for Covid-19 testing can be made by any GP, and it is not necessary to be registered with a GP to contact them in relation to a COVID test. Testing can also be arranged by GP out-of-hours services. The Government has been concerned to ensure that COVID testing is available to all who need it on an equal footing, and has allocated significant resources to this end.
253. To ask the Minister for Health the number of doctors who have notified his Department, the HSE or other relevant body of their intention not to vaccinate patients against Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9069/21]
254. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to higher Covid-19 mortality rates among kidney patents; if the vaccination allocation plan has been reviewed in this regard; the level of engagement with an organisation (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9074/21]
The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and the Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.
Vaccine allocation is a matter for the Department of Health and further information is available here: .
The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.
The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.
The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus.
The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.
The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will start in the week beginning the 15th of February.
All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.
The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.