The HSE has told hospitals that in exceptional circumstances they can provide surplus vaccines to people who do not have conditions that could leave them at risk of severe illness or death as a result of contracting Covid-19.
It told hospital group chief executives and clinical directors in a letter last Wednesday that vaccination of anyone beyond group 7 – people aged 16-64 who had an underlying condition that puts them at high risk of severe disease and death – was not appropriate.
However it said in exceptional circumstances and “as a last resort” so as to avoid wastage, small numbers of vaccines could be administered to people outside the categories of the medically vulnerable and those at very high and high risk of severe illness or death.
The HSE said, however, “this should be done in a transparent, equitable and fair manner”.
Some informed sources told The Irish Times that while the HSE guidance last week would appear to allow vaccines to be given to other groups such as gardaí on occasion at vaccination centres, the official policy remained that there could be no singling out of additional occupations.
Meanwhile, HSE chief executive Paul Reid defended the Covid-19 vaccination rollout amid reports of non-patient-facing workers “skipping the queue” for vaccines.
The Irish Mail on Sunday reported that staff at a charity were told to misrepresent themselves as frontline healthcare workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.
Mr Reid said there were certainly some people who received a vaccine outside of the official schedule, but that the vast majority did not skip the queue. However he said he did not have details on the number of queue jumpers.
Separately Mr Reid told Gavan Reilly on Newstalk’s On The Record that the number of people being vaccinated against Covid-19 out of turn was “marginal”, and it was “regrettable” that it had happened.