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GP calls for clarity on vaccine delivery


Rural Mayo doctors given no date for vaccine arrival for patients aged over 85 years

Anton McNulty

A BELMULLET-based GP has called for more communication and clarity on when GPs will receive the Covid-19 vaccines and start administrating them to their over-85s patients.
This week, vaccines are being administered in the community for the first time, starting with the over-85s. However, a number of GPs in Mayo have yet to be informed when their vaccine allocations are coming.
Belmullet-based GP, Dr Fergal Ruane, who has 464 patients aged over 70 in his practice – over 80 are aged 85 or more – said patients have been ringing him asking when they will be vaccinated, and he does not know yet.
“I can understand there might be teething troubles, but we are ready to go and anxious to give these vaccines,” he told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday).
“We may or may not know by Wednesday whether we will get the vaccines by next week or not. We will definitely not be getting any this week. They are supposed to be distributed to surgeries with a certain number of over 85s, and we would fit into that category, but we haven’t got it. I couldn’t tell you when I am going to have vaccines.
“Patients have been told by the media that vaccinations have started this morning, but they haven’t. They started in 84 surgeries, and that’s assuming they were delivered.
“I would hope by next Tuesday we would have vaccines, but I cannot guarantee anyone. As a result, I cannot organise clinics, staff or anything. It is great they are coming, but we need more communication and clarity on it,” he said.
Similarly, Mulranny-based GP, Dr Jerry Cowley says he has yet to receive any information on when his surgery will receive the vaccine but stressed they are ready to go.
“We have got no definite date on deliveries but are ready to go, and if vaccines are left over which will possibly happen, we have people on a standby list to ensure no vaccine is wasted,” he said.

Timing crucial
The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will be administered to all over 70s, but they to be used within a certain timeframe due to strict storage criteria.
“We will have to be rigorous about that,” Dr Ruane said. “We have five days by the time they get to Dublin to give them, which realistically means we’ll have four days down here. Once a vaccine is drawn up, you have six hours to give it, so it will have to be pretty military. Once it gets going, I would be confident we will get through people and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he said.
Dr Cowley had hoped to use the Mulranny Amenity Centre as a centre for vaccinating in the village, but GPs were informed by the HSE that community centres and other buildings cannot be used for liability reasons.
GPs will not be allowed to visit patients houses if they are unable to travel to the surgery for the vaccination, but the HSE will provide assistance to people living at home.
Yesterday, the HSE confirmed that the Breaffy House Resort will be the location of the Mayo Covid-19 vaccination centre, which will be used to vaccinate the majority of the population of the county.
At a HSE briefing, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the centres would ‘be ready well in advance of vaccine supply, when they will be used as part of our programme’.
“People can expect to see these vaccination centres ready and waiting in their county,” he said.
“We will see these centres operating to full capacity and administering vaccines to the general population, following the Government priority list,” he added.

Calls for north Mayo centre
While welcoming news of the Breaffy centre, Mayo TD, Alan Dillon has called for a second centre to be opened to cater for the needs of the people of north Mayo.
“Given the geographical spread of the county, limited public transport and the approximate two-hour round trip from Belmullet … I think it would be strategically important for the HSE to provide another mass Covid-19 vaccination centre in north Mayo.
“I have written to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the HSE to prioritise north Mayo for a second vaccination centre.
“The past few months have been extremely difficult for the people living in north Mayo, where high levels of the virus have been detected. Placing a vaccine hub in the north Mayo area will demonstrate a significant gesture of solidarity to the local residents, and I’m determined to see it happen,” he said.
Dr Ruane said it would be ideal for a centre in the north of the county, but the main thing is to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Dr Cowley added that if the older population could be vaccinated close to home, he did not see travelling to Castlebar as a big burden for the younger population.
Meanwhile, Dr Cowley added that the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination is due to be administered to the residents of St Brendan’s Unit in Mulranny later today (Tuesday). He praised the work of the staff in ensuring that no resident contracted Covid-19 since the outbreak began last March.
“We have Psalm 91 from the Old Testament to evoke the help of the All Mighty. One of residents suggested it and we have it in the front of St Brendan’s proclaiming we have the help of the All Mighty against this dreaded curse on our land. Thanks to the excellent staff and person in charge, Edel Dunican that none of the residents have got Covid; it did not pass St Brendan’s threshold,” he said.