How fair is the priority list of people to receive the Covid-19 vaccine?
If you are a woman or man in your 40s or early 50s with no risk factors, then the bad news is you are second last in a 15-stage queue to get the jab. So you will be taking your chances with the virus for a good while yet.
You might even be sidelined by people aged 18-34 who will be given the vaccine before you if it is found to prevent transmission. This is because less infection in this group would be key to reducing the spread to vulnerable groups.
These are some of the more complex decisions the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and the Department of Health, which set out the hierarchy, have had to wrestle with.
They have done their best to explain the fairness and rationale – but, outside of people in most need, they could face questions.
For example, why is an entertainer – a professional comedian or singer – prioritised over a middle-aged man or woman? There are clear economic and social reasons to allow entertainers to get back on stage – where they need to be protected, obviously. And according to the committee they are among a group who are important to the functioning of society.
There will be no argument with most of the list. Everyone agrees with placing over-65s in long-term homes at the top of the queue, given the toll Covid has taken on their lives. And nobody would question giving frontline healthcare workers the first shots, due to the daily danger they face, and the fact that they could also pass the virus on to patients.
It then works its way down to the over-70s, beginning with the over-85s.
It is when it reaches category number six that the list could provoke some questions.
At that point, key workers will be offered the vaccine – those people providing services essential to the vaccination programme, although it will be further refined.
Next in line are people aged 18-64 with certain medical conditions. These include conditions known to leave people more susceptible to illness, like heart and respiratory disease, which figures show can cause them to be placed in intensive care.
The extent of this list is expected to be questioned.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee and the Department of Health have attempted to explain the rationale for their decisions mainly based on how the disease has affected different groups, as well as ethical considerations.
However, in the category of illnesses some people may feel sidelined.
Derick Mitchell, chief executive of the Irish Platform for Patients’ Organisations, Science and Industry, has sought meetings with decision-makers to make the list of conditions inclusive.
“Many chronic and/or rare disease patients manage one or more life-threatening or life-limiting conditions. Many have been cocooning since news of the pandemic broke in early 2020,” he pointed out.
Teachers are in a priority category but they too will have to wait, having been ranked at 11th in the 15-stage table.