ROLLOUT WILL SPEED UP Tony Canavan, Saolta.
HSE officials have not ruled out satellite vaccination centres, such as the second centre that is being called for to service the Erris region.
Last month, the HSE named the Breaffy House Resort as the only vaccination centre in Mayo. The move was criticised by a number of public representatives, who argue that more centres are needed for such a large county.
However, Saolta University Health Care Group CEO Tony Canavan informed members of the HSE West Health forum that the HSE is conscious of the needs of people living in remote areas. Small satellite sites are under consideration in certain areas, including northwest Mayo, he said.
Responding to a question from Inishowen-based councillor Albert Doherty, the HSE’s chief officer for the area, John Hayes said ‘pop-up services’ supplementing the major hubs could be rolled out as the vaccination process progresses.
Mr Canavan also said the necessary IT systems should be installed at the Breaffy House Resort by the end of the first week of March. Depending on the availability of vaccines, they could be in a position to start vaccinating people by the middle of March, he said.
The HSE West Health forum includes counties from Donegal south to Tipperary. Attendees concerns were dominated by the pace of the vaccine roll-out and the rationale behind the prioritisation lists.
There were complaints about the number of GP surgeries in the region who were yet to receive their vaccines for the over 85s. Galway councillor Declan McDonnell said he knew of people sitting by their phone for the last three weeks waiting for the call which has yet to come. He said he feels communication on when they would receive it should be better.
Mr Canavan is also the chair of the steering group in the west and northwest for the rollout of the vaccination to the general population. He urged people to be patient, saying he expects the rollout to speed up later this month.
“It is important that people bear with the vaccination programme,” he said.
“My expectation is the position generally will change significantly over the coming couple of weeks, and the amount of vaccine available to us and our capacity to deliver it will increase quite considerably. The length of time any person will have to wait will be well reduced.”
Mr Canavan admitted that the logic behind which groups should get the vaccine first can be difficult to understand, but he stressed that no group will be forgotten about or left behind.
“We are entering the point in the vaccination programme when the length of time any person has to wait will be reduced quite significantly,” he said. “The amount of vaccine we are being told will be available to us through March and April will increase quite significantly. It will become much more available within the general population and all the people who want it will receive it.
“Once the decisions are made regarding the levels of priorities, the responsibility of working to them rests with ourselves. Yes we have national priorities, but responsibility for the implementation takes place locally.
“To be fair we have achieved our initial aim that every drop of vaccine that came in our direction was used quickly and on the right people. Our ambition is to maintain that as we go forward as the amount of vaccine increases.”