The Covid lead for the Irish College of General Practitioners Dr Mary Favier has called for “inflexible ways” to be changed to allow for anyone who is qualified to volunteer to become a vaccinator.
Dr Favier, who is also a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), told RTÉ radio’s News at One that there needed to be greater agility in the recruitment of vaccinators and that there was a need “to put aside the rigid structures”.
The recruitment of people to administer the vaccine was going to be a challenge, she said. She knew of many who had volunteered — retired GPs and nurses who were already vaccinating patients in general practice, but they were meeting “all sorts of obstacles”.
“Anyone who wants to vaccinate and is qualified should be facilitated. It is important that the old rules or inflexible ways are facilitated to change.”
Dr Favier said that 3,500 GPs were already involved in vaccinating the older cohorts and were well placed to assist in the “big challenge” of rolling out the programme.
On the same programme, the HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said that there had been 4,000 applicants to participate in the vaccination programme, 650 had been deployed, and he expected more would be recruited. More vaccination centres would open as supplies of the vaccine increased.
Dr Henry estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 vaccinators would be required, and he was confident that the only restriction would be supply of the vaccine itself.
Both Dr Favier and Dr Henry agreed that the HPSC data on low rates of transmission of the virus outdoors was good news, but warned that it was peripheral events such as transport to and from sporting activity along with social gatherings before and after that could pose a risk.
On the issue of teachers and their dismay at the change in the priority list Dr Henry said that a teacher aged in their mid 50s was more at risk than a colleague in their mid 20s. Under the new age-based list those at more risk would be vaccinated quicker.
Dr Favier pointed out that with the new age based scheme all teachers would be vaccinated and fully immune before the return to school in the autumn. Realistically teachers were never going to be vaccinated before the end of the current school year, she added.