Vaccines were left over after reserve list activated
Staff at the HSE’s finance department in Offaly were vaccinated despite working in non-patient-facing roles, it has emerged.
The HSE confirmed that “a small number” of staff received vaccines after the reserve list was activated and there were vaccines left over.
A spokesperson declined to say exactly how many received doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“Midlands Louth Meath Community Healthcare Organisation (CHO) operates on the principle that no vaccine should be wasted,” the spokesperson said.
It is understood that a number of those involved are currently working from home.
The HSE declined to specify which product – Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca – was used.
Prior to its suspension on Sunday, more healthcare workers were being given the AstraZeneca vaccine because the Government had decided not to give this vaccine to people over 70 years old.
Crucially, it is much easier to distribute than the Covid vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, which must be kept at -80C until it is about to be used.
The jab, developed by Swedish firm AstraZeneca and England’s Oxford University, can be stored in a regular fridge and has a much longer shelf life, leading to less risk of wastage.
In a statement, the HSE said: “Midlands Louth Meath Community Healthcare Organisation adheres to the sequencing as agreed by Government when administering Covid-19 vaccines and has a reserve list which is activated when there is surplus vaccine available.
“However, on very rare occasions where a small number of vaccines are remaining, Midlands Louth Meath CHO operates on the principle that no vaccine should be wasted.
“This is an agile and fast-evolving programme and the HSE is working to ensure the vaccine is administered as fast as supplies allow.
“A key factor of the roll-out strategy is to reduce the risk of any wastage.”
Under the HSE’s guidelines, the vaccine should only be given to clerical and administration workers after the following cohorts: nurses and medics working with Covid patients, first responders, GPs, dentists, dental nurses, counsellors, mental health workers, public health workers, social care workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, lab staff, pharmacists, catering and household staff, maintenance workers, and inspectors such as those working with the Health Information and Quality Authority.
Some frontline healthcare workers have criticised the slow roll-out and prioritisation of the vaccines within the health sector against the backdrop of limited supplies from the EU.
A total of 292,2571 vaccines have been given to frontline healthcare workers to date. Of those, 201,614 are first doses and 90,597 are second doses.
In January, it emerged that the Coombe hospital in Dublin gave first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech to 16 family members of the hospital staff, including two children of the hospital’s master, Professor Michael O’Connell.
This happened after some were left over following the vaccination of some 1,100 staff, local GPs and community workers.
Prof O’Connell apologised for the decision and said he regretted it, but said he could not find any more frontline healthcare workers – one of two priority groups currently being vaccinated – on the night and the vaccines would have otherwise gone to waste.
In January, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, HSE chief executive Paul Reid and other political and health figures criticised the decision to give leftover vaccines to family members.