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‘Incredibly slow’ COVID-19 vaccine process can be accelerated with assistance of GPs

in Covid-19/News by

*Dr Máire Finn.

Roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Republic of Ireland has been described as “incredibly slow” by an Ennis GP.

On Wednesday, Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, Robin Swann (UUP) stated that Coronavirus vaccinations have been carried out in 80 percent of all care homes in the North. While the roll-out is not expected to begin in the Republic until Monday January 11th, a ‘soft roll-out’ is to commence on January 6th.

Summer-time has been identified as the time when the country can hope to return to some semblance of normality. This is reiterated by Dr Máire Finn who struggled to comprehend why the roll-out of the vaccine was moving at a slower pace in the Republic. “We would be all very hopeful that by summer time we should be considering ourselves back to normal because by that stage the majority of people in the country should be vaccinated.

“I have to say that the roll-out is very slow and I’m not entirely sure why, I wish the HSE would be a little bit more transparent but there seems to be very few vaccines coming into the country but they are making it seem like it is the logistics of the roll-out. In normal circumstances, every year GPs give out a million vaccines without any fuss, it just happens, it is part of our normal work and I do believe we would be able to do this without any problem but the HSE seem to think they need four people to give a vaccine. It seems to be incredibly slow, the whole process and I don’t understand why”.

Urgency with regards to the vaccine is lacking in some regards, the doctor with Ennis Medical – Centric Health believed. “This is a crisis and we’re in a real problem situation, the number of COVID-19 cases are going way up and we’re seeing it in Clare and all around the country so it is a priority, now we have something to protect people, it is a crisis and it should be seen as that. We could have 24 hour clinics running vaccines and GPs are willing to do this because if we had the vaccine our work would be significantly improved because the last year has been an absolute nightmare for us”.

Medical professionals like Máire saw their surgeries close down at the beginning of the pandemic before adapting to consultations over the phone. Patients returned to surgeries in the summer with medical issues that had been delayed and ensued an otherwise quieter time of the year became very busy for doctors. The workload for GPs has tripled, she maintained.

Little information has been provided to GPs from the HSE regarding the vaccine, Dr Finn admitted. She expressed her surprise that their role in administering the vaccine has not been utilised. “The logistics are there in our surgeries to do this, we do it all the time, when the flu vaccine comes out we go to the nursing homes and do the flu vaccine and we help the people that are the most vulnerable. I have no idea why this isn’t being given to GPs as a priority job. We can do this without little fuss and very little extra financing”.

Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Wexford native described the approach of the HSE as “bureaucratic”. She outlined, “The decision making is made by the people at the top who haven’t been as harshly affected by the realities of COVID-19, the bureaucracy always slows things down and at the very beginning of this crisis, the HSE came good and changed things quickly, we’ve seen it go back to its normal slow pace and bureaucracy taking charge which is disappointing because we want this to be done quickly and we’re willing to do it”.

Were the HSE to alter their approach and get GPs to administer the vaccine, Máire believed the ‘return to normality’ would occur much sooner. “The problem again is down to supply. If we had enough supply to vaccinate a significant cohort of the population then we could see an end to this COVID nightmare sooner than late summer. If supply is the issue, then the HSE should be honest about this and not say it is down to the logistics”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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