The Covid vaccination programme in South South West Hospital Group (S/SWHG) was rolled out at Cork University Hospital (CUH) this afternoon.
Vaccines arrived at the hospital at lunchtime with around 12 to 15 “front facing staff who are working on the Covid pathway” vaccinated.
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, took place at a further three hospitals, including Beaumont and St James's hospitals in Dublin and University Hospital Galway, today.
79-year-old grandmother from Dublin, Annie Lynch, became the first person in the Republic to receive the vaccination and said that she feels “there is a bit of hope there now”.
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”.
“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,” she said.
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.
Dr O’Connor said the focus “is getting as much information out as possible for those who will be vaccinated but we need to start small and make sure we have it all right”.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said that today was “a ray of light after what has been a trying year” but warned that the virus is still a threat to health and the country’s health services, and said we “must do everything we can to slow its spread”.