The health minister was asked to allow the residents of the nursing home to choose a loved one to be included in the Covid-19 vaccination program when he appears in January.
The proposal means that every 30,000 residents of a nursing home in the country would nominate a relative or friend as a “vaccine friend” to ensure that they can still receive visits while waiting for the rest of the population to complete the immunization program.
The Ireland Nursing Home trade group raised the issue with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last week to ask him to consider the proposals. Tadg Daly, chief executive of a nursing home in Ireland, said they wanted the measure to be introduced in the early stages of the vaccination program to ensure the well-being of residents.
The Sunday Independent may find that the first vaccine deliveries to the State – expected in early January – will be enough to immunize all nursing home residents and nursing home staff, according to those working on the plan.
The Pfizer vaccine, developed by BioNTech, is awaiting conditional approval from the European Medicines Agency by December 29, and the first batches in Ireland are expected to be delivered shortly thereafter.
The first batch of the vaccine – which requires two doses – will include 300,000 doses, enough to inoculate 150,000 people. If, as expected, the vaccine is approved, it is possible that by the end of January, tens of thousands of the country’s most vulnerable – who received both doses three to four weeks apart – will be inoculated against Covid-19 by the end of January.
However, mass vaccination is expected to begin only if there is a sufficient supply of vaccines in the country.
Meanwhile, the National Ambulance Service is expected to play a key role in the rapid administration of the vaccine to staff and residents of nursing homes in January.
“The national ambulance staff has the competencies and training to administer injections and has done an incredible job of doing 300,000 tests in the community,” said one source.
Vaccine expansion plans have intensified as the National Covid-19 Vaccine Working Group prepares to present an implementation plan to the government on Friday.
The defense forces have confirmed that the army’s top commander, Lt. Col. Louis Flynn, is in a working group to “support the health service executive in future tasks related to Covid-19.”
Informed sources say the Defense Forces are expected to play a key role in logistical expansion. Defense personnel are expected to help distribute the vaccine to community testing centers, which will be remodeled as vaccine testing centers.
Military medical personnel trained to delete patients for Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic should receive training in vaccine administration, the source said.
The CEO of Health Services is also restructuring its Covid-19 Immunization Implementation Working Groups, in a move that surprised stakeholders.
Last week, members were told that pending the restructuring, a meeting scheduled for tomorrow had been postponed and that the subgroups had subscribed.
In response to questions this weekend, HSE said: “The whole work of HSE on immunization is progressing and we continue to work with the High Level Working Group on Vaccination against Covid-19, led by prof. “Brian McCright.”
The exact details of who will be given priority for the vaccine are likely to be determined by the Cabinet this week.
Sources said that despite their basic status as workers, ministers do not expect to jump in line, although one minister has privately speculated that President Michael D. Higgins, 79, could be vaccinated in the first wave.
Last Thursday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NFET) reviewed a joint document from the Department of Health and the National Advisory Council on Immunization, which presented a provisional priority list for vaccines. Prioritization, also known as sequencing, will be based on which groups are most vulnerable to the virus, and distribution will depend on the effectiveness of each vaccine in different types of people.
Based on that logic, most governments expect this to mean that residents and staff in care homes go first, followed by first-line health workers and the elderly with basic health conditions.
Officials believe the monitoring system will be key to tracking mass vaccinations of the population once that phase of the program begins.
Officials do not expect the National Immunization Information System, for which the HSE is currently working on procurement, to work and work over time, but as one admits: “We need an IT system.”
This system will be used to deploy people for vaccination, record some of their personal information and indicate what vaccine they were given. You will also need to be invited to return for a second dose if needed, depending on what vaccine you are receiving. Maintaining such a database may require the use of a person’s PPS number, but this has not yet been resolved by a working group that receives advice on data and privacy issues.
People will also need to have a record of the fact that they have been vaccinated – the so-called vaccine passport – but the exact nature of this is still unclear.
Separately, a recent Cantar poll found that just over half of the population (52) had expressed reservations about the vaccine. Some respondents are concerned about the rush in which the vaccine was developed. As for others, there is a feeling that maybe this is too good to be true.
Those most concerned are likely to be women (57 pieces), those on the socio-economic scale (C2Des – 56 pieces) and those living in Konacht / Ulster (56 pieces). Conversely, those who believe most in the vaccine are professional classes (AB – 50 pieces), seniors (46 pieces), men and Dubliners (45 pieces and 43 pieces, respectively).
This comes after it was announced last night that 13 more people in Ireland died from Covid-19, according to figures released last night. The Center for Health Surveillance said it had also been informed of another 456 confirmed cases of the virus, the highest number since November 16.
That means there have been 2,099 Covid-19-related deaths in Ireland since the start of the pandemic and 2,048 confirmed cases in the past week.
As of 2 p.m. yesterday, there were 231 Covid-19 patients in the hospital, including 28 intensive care patients. Five patients have been hospitalized in the past 24 hours.
Of the new cases, 197 are in Dublin.
Donegal reported 37 new cases. There were 33 in Limerick, 21 in Louth, 20 in Kilkenny, and the remaining 148 cases were spread across 21 counties.