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GP calls for clarity over Covid vaccine priority list

AN ENNIS GP has described a number of incidents where Covid-19 vaccines were administered people in non-priority groups as “insulting”.

It emerged in recent days that so-called ‘remnant’ doses, left over after vaccination of priority groups at the Coombe and Rotonda hospitals in Dublin, were administered to relatives of staff. “The idea that hospitals would start giving spare doses to other people without evening thinking of their other frontline healthcare colleagues is insulting,” said Dr Máire Finn. “The fact that hospitals would get extra quantities of the vaccine and wouldn’t consider other staff or calling in GPs in their area makes me incredibly cross. There’s a sense that GPs have only been getting the scraps off the table.”

Dr Finn welcomed updated guidance from the Health Service Executive (HSE) stating that hospitals should compile stand-by lists of other healthcare workers who would be vaccinated in the event of any spare doses becoming available.

She also commended the roll-out of a GP vaccination programme at centres in Galway, Portlaoise and Dublin, as well as a plan to get family doctors administering the vaccine. “I received my own first dose at Cahercalla on Monday when residents and staff there were vaccinated and that was great to see,” she said. “The news that government has reached an agreement with GPs and pharmacists to vaccinate their patients is another big step. GPs are ready to mobilise this minute and we want to do this. Everyone is terrified of contracting Covid, there’s a huge amount of anxiety that patients are presenting with. The increased workload the pandemic has created for GPs has been extraordinary. Vaccination will improve everyone’s lives.”

Dr Finn outlined how family doctors are ideally positioned to identify priority patients as outlined in the National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy. “We already have our vulnerable patients lists, which we update every year. The significant difference here is the age profile of those who will be vaccinated first, but we have the IT infrastructure to quickly identify them,” she said. “What will be very important will be a clear set of professional and ethical guidelines from the HSE so that we can respond to the pressure that will come on us from people trying to jump the queue. These guidelines need to be clearly communicated to the public. We really will need that clarity in order to avoid the ‘wink and nod’ culture that we see so often.”HSE

Dr Finn also raised concerns about public behaviour during the third wave of Covid. “We still have a lot of presentations from people with symptoms, often mild nasal symptoms that turn out to be Covid,” she said. “We are starting to see a very slight reduction in numbers. What I am finding now though is that people are reluctant to get tested because they don’t want to have to isolate. There is an element of lockdown fatigue, but there’s selfishness too. People really need to think of others and remember the end is in sight. It reminds me of my good friend Patsy O’Grady from Kilmaley who texted me to say, ‘It’s like extra time in a county final, we just have to keep on hanging in there’.”

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