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GPs fear lack of vaccines for over-70s 'could lead to a lot of tensions with patients'

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There is a shortage of manpower outside the capital

There is a shortage of manpower outside the capital

There is a shortage of manpower outside the capital

Many GPs fear a lack of Covid-19 vaccines for over-70s will cause turmoil as the supply will not meet huge demand among older people.

There are also concerns that a shortage of GPs in parts of rural Ireland will lead to delays in vaccinations.

Dr Ken Egan, a Mayo GP, said he has been contacted by many of his colleagues whose practices are already inundated with calls from older people about the vaccine.

The former president of the Irish Medical Organisation said it could take 12 weeks to fully vaccinate all the over-85s, the first group of older people who are to be offered the two-shot vaccine later this month.

"GPs are afraid the shortage of vaccines will cause chaos. It could lead to a lot of tensions between patients and doctors," he added.

"Health Minister Stephen Donnelly needs to be upfront with people and tell them they will get vaccinated but it will take longer."

"There will need to be guidelines on the priority order," added Dr Egan.

The first advertisements informing over-85s that "Covid-19 vaccinations are on the way" appeared in newspapers yesterday, telling people "your GP will let you know" when a vaccine is available and everyone will receive one when "it's their turn".

It is expected supplies of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, the first of which are to arrive next week, will only amount to 285,000 doses in February and March, down from the 600,000 which had been expected.

Although there were hopes last night that the number of doses arriving here could be increased after the EU announced that AstraZeneca agreed to deliver an extra nine million in the first quarter of the year.

Unclear

This could mean another 90,000 doses for ­Ireland.

There are also hopes of an increase in deliveries from Pfizer BioNTech, although large numbers of health staff have still not been vaccinated.

Everyone who gets the vaccine needs two doses and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee will decide on the gap which can range from four to 12 weeks.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is 60pc effective in people aged under 55 and there is a lack of data on the response of older people due to the smaller numbers involved in the trials.

However, it was licensed by the European Medicines Agency for people over 18 and it said it expects protection for older age groups, although it is unclear what level it will be.

Meanwhile, Dr Ruairi Hanley, a GP in Co Louth, said the plan is for GPs to provide rapid vaccination clinics for the entire older population as more supplies of the vaccine become available.

"GP surgeries may simply not be feasible in some parts of the country," he said.

"The truth is that there is a GP manpower crisis in rural Ireland due to the unwillingness of many younger colleagues to practise medicine beyond the M50.

"While I have no doubt that south Dublin would have no shortage, elderly people in rural Ireland may not be so lucky.

"Delays may be inevitable as there are only so many hours doctors and nurses can work."

He called on the HSE to arrange for vaccination centres where Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines would be offered "instead of waiting for GPs to save the day".

There are 500,000 people aged over 70s in the country, including 81,000 over 85 and 90,000 aged 80-84.

Mr Donnelly said the roll-out to the over-70s will begin this month, with every effort being made to deliver the programme "as rapidly and as safely as possible".

Ireland expects to have a total of 1.1 million vaccines doses by March.

As of Wednesday 161,500 doses were administered, 71,600 of which were first doses to residents and staff in long-term care facilities.

Meanwhile, the Irish public reacted to thumb gate last night, giving Mr Donnelly his own medicine on Twitter.

His Twitter ignited with hundreds of people tweeting a thumbs up emoji but it certainly wasn't for the right reasons.

Mr Donnelly tweeted: "This is progress and will mean more vaccines for Ireland in the next two months."

He was reacting to Ursula von der Leyen's tweet on the AstraZeneca nine million additional doses for the EU.

Twitter users were far from impressed with the spin after it was revealed Mr Donnelly had sent a thumbs up emoji by text to chief medical officer Tony Holohan upon hearing the 'R' number had increased in Dublin in October.

Even Guardian columnist and activist Owen Jones gave Mr Donnelly a thumbs up emoji.


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