'They've probably been the best and most satisfying days of my medical career.' That was how Dr David Curtis described last week at the Sunnyside Medical Centre on Waterloo Road as a stream of over 85s arrived to finally receive their Covid-19 vaccine.
he medical centre received its allocation of vaccines on Monday of last week and began administering them with military precision on Tuesday afternoon, getting through a total of 166 vaccinations over a three day period.
'There was such an uplifting atmosphere,' Dr Curtis said. 'It's among the best experiences I've had in my medical life. There was just so much joy and excitement and relief. The excitement was palpable here. As a GP, unfortunately you rarely deal in good news. You can give some relief to people at times, but usually people come to us when they are unwell. This was just really good news for everyone involved.'
Sunnyside Medical Centre offered the vaccine to 156 patients over the age of 85 and all of them gratefully accepted. In the end, they even managed to get a few more done.
'They come in vials of six, so you can sometimes get an extra dose out of it,' Dr Curtis explained. 'We managed to get ten extra doses. So the way it worked was we took out our list and we called 84 year-olds who we knew were mobile and lived close by that could be with us in an hour, because we have a finite amount of time to use up the vaccines. Once they're open, you get six hours.'
Unfortunately, not all GPs received their allocation of vaccines last week, some being put back to this week to begin administering to those over 85. This is seemingly down to a combination of Wexford's place on the cold chain for delivery and the HSE's desire to see surgeries with a larger amount of over 85s served first.
'We were actually supposed to have ours a week earlier, but we got a call saying that unfortunately they wouldn't be arriving,' Dr Curtis said. 'Thankfully we hadn't made arrangements with patients yet at that stage, but in fairness, they usually do give enough notice so that you can cancel appointments etc.
It's disappointing for those who've been let down. They are all ready to go and then they see the likes of ourselves getting through the vaccinations.'
There seems to be a level of uncertainty over whether supply issues and delays will become an increasing factor as the vaccine is rolled-out further to those over 80 and then over 70s.
'I've had people ring up saying, "I'm 82, when do I get my vaccine?",' Dr Curtis said. 'For them, I'm able to say probably around two weeks. For someone who's 78, it could be four weeks time. But in the meantime, there could be further delays getting vaccines out too, so we can't be sure. It's the uncertainty that's wearing on people who are already tired.'
Things are now set to get much busier at Sunnyside as Dr Curtis says in six weeks time, he and his staff will be facing into administering nearly 500 vaccines. Once again, people are reminded that regular GP services will be reduced while the vaccine roll-out is ongoing.