When Matthew McNeive went for a check-up in the dialysis unit in Beaumont Hospital last November, a brief conversation with the receptionist made his blood run cold.
He asked her if she was busy, and she replied: “No. We have lost seven patients to Covid.”
“It really shocked me,” says Matthew (21), from Knock, Co Mayo, who since birth has endured 25 operations, including a kidney transplant in 2010.
Like thousands of renal and transplant patients, Matthew can't understand why his community has been placed seventh in the HSE vaccine priority list. The Covid-19 mortality rate for renal and transplant patients in Ireland is estimated to be as high as 25pc.
Matthew’s life now consists of attending hospital for dialysis three times a week.
Despite near constant hospitalisations as a child, Matthew excelled at school and earned a place at the Technological University Dublin studying Clinical Measurement Science.
Now in third year, he has never repeated a year of his education but due to the HSE vaccine priority policy, the prospect looms large.
“I was due to start placement in Beaumont Hospital last October. However, the HSE they deemed I was too high risk due to Covid-19.
“I was told that if I have the vaccine by February 15, I would have the immunity to start my last placement by March 15.
“However, because of how the distribution of vaccines has been ranked I am number seven on the list which means I won’t get it until April. I won’t be able to go into fourth year with my mates and will have to pay €6,000 in fees.
“The kicker is that if I was on placement I would have the vaccine by now. My classmates who are on placement have already been vaccinated.
“Dialysis patients are regarded as being extremely high risk in terms of Covid-19 and to put us way down the list seems contradictory.
“My year head, Dr Siobhan Daly, has been brilliant trying to accommodate me, but I think the HSE has prioritised the pecking order for vaccinations wrong.
“Renal patients feel a bit failed by the HSE. We are just as high risk as people in nursing homes, we are actually taking medication to suppress our immune system.
"It doesn’t make sense.”
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