The Covid vaccination programme in South South West Hospital Group (S/SWHG) is due to start at around 3pm today at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Vaccines are due to arrive at the hospital at lunchtime with around 12 to 15 “front facing staff who are working on the Covid pathway” due to be vaccinated today.
The South South West Hospital Group has scheduled another 250 vaccinations for tomorrow and a further 250 will be vaccinated on Thursday.
The rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which arrived in Ireland on St Stephen's Day, will take place at a further three hospitals, including Beaumont and St James's hospitals in Dublin and University Hospital Galway, today.
Cork GP Nuala O’Connor, who is the Covid-19 lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), said that the rollout of the vaccine at the hospitals is “absolutely brilliant”.
“December 29, 2020 is a great day to remember for Ireland. This is the start of the next phase but it's really important that we understand it's going to take about eight months.
“There is lots of ifs and buts because it depends on the supply of the vaccine and everything going according to the timelines given for when various vaccines will be approved, when the and supply chain will be ramped up, so if all goes according to plan, it will be the end of August before we have had an opportunity to offer the vaccine to everyone who is eligible so that's another eight months away,” she said.
She said that “hopefully by the end of February”, elderly citizens in long-term care facilities will have been vaccinated which she said “would be fantastic” as they are the most medically vulnerable and sadly accounted for 56% of deaths in the country’s first wave.
Hopefully we will have those and the staff who care for them all protected by the end of February and that would be a really significant milestone.
Following the vaccination of the the country’s most medically vulnerable, Dr O’Connor said it is also hoped that by the end of February that “an awful lot of our front-facing health workers are vaccinated because we need them to be at work and not to be at home self-isolating or restricting their movements”.
She said that includes hospital staff and healthcare workers in the community such as GPs and their staff.
“The phrase we normally use when it comes to Covid-19 is speed trumps perfection but when it comes to vaccines, patient safety is paramount here so we have to start slow,” she said.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that today is “a ray of light after what has been a trying year in our country”.
“It is testament to the work of the medical and scientific communities that we now have safe and effective vaccines to help to protect us against the devastating effects of Covid-19.
“Our healthcare workers have worked day and night to care for their patients throughout this pandemic. I would like to acknowledge their dedication and commitment, and thank them for the central role they will play as we now move into administering the vaccines,” he said.
He warned that while vaccines “will help us in the fight against this pandemic”, that the virus is still a threat to health and to our health services, and said we “must do everything we can to slow its spread”.
HSE CEO, Paul Reid, said he is “very proud” to see the vaccinations commencing safely and that the vaccine “has the power to protect people from Covid-19, and reduce the illness and deaths caused by this terrible virus”.
“As we know, the vaccines will be delivered in stages, we’re starting in acute hospitals initially, and will move into long-term care facilities from next week, but this is a great start to an historic process,” he said.