THE head of the HSE has rejected claims that more than half a million doses of the flu vaccine have gone missing.
Paul Reid told the Oireachtas health committee that 600,000 doses sent to GPs and pharmacies have not yet been administered.
It was reported yesterday that the doses of vaccine cannot be located.
But HSE chief executive Mr Reid said: “There are no missing vaccines, there is always a lag time between people registering [doses administered], but we just want to see where the allocation is and how to prioritise the final distribution.”
He said 1.3m doses have been distributed in total, and more have now been issued than during the whole of the flu season last year. He said there has been a 20% increase in the number of distributed vaccines compared to previous years.
Mr Reid said there has been “very significant demand” from private clinics for the flu vaccine, which has left private services under pressure.
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane asked the HSE to guarantee those in the “high-risk” categories will be vaccinated.
Dr Colm Henry, the HSE’s chief clinical officer, said that he is not in a position to guarantee the behaviour of every single GP across the country.
But he added: “Based on strong, consistent messaging and based on our need to prioritise those groups, given the stock we have, I am reasonably confident those vaccines are going to those high-priority groups.”
Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said she is concerned about the number of people living in deprived areas that do not have access to GP services.
She said there is a high number of people attending hospitals from these areas because of limited GP services.
Ms Shortall said: “During Covid-19, areas of higher deprivation has suffered more within the health system. What work is being done to ensure sufficient number of GPs in that area?”
Dr Henry said the HSE is regularly speaking to the Irish College of General Practitioners about how the issue can be resolved.
He added the new pay deal agreement with GPs last year has helped.
Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny raised the issue of work contracts for Covid-19 contact tracers.
Mr Kenny asked: “What is the average length of contracts for the new 800 hire staff?
“How many have been recruited through a private company?
“How much has HSE paid the private recruitment to hire staff for the winter period?”
Mr Reid said there are almost 350 community swabbers and 470 contact tracers currently employed, but that number is expected to increase.
He told the committee that the contracts are for 12 months and contain similar terms and conditions as those directly employed by the HSE.
He added a private recruitment company is used by the HSE but he could not reveal any of the commercial terms.
HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor revealed around 2,000 health staff are currently on leave because of Covid-19.
She said that a “significant number” of those workers have chronic conditions and are cocooning, while more than 1,000 are on Covid-19 leave.