Managers at two Dublin nursing homes organised raffles and cash prizes as part of their efforts to encourage staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
However, the director of nursing at the homes says she believes the vaccines should be mandatory as there are still over 30 staff members who've opted not to get vaccinated.
While officials have reported very high vaccination rates among nursing home residents and staff, small numbers of staff have turned down the jabs.
HSE CEO Paul Reid today said it's 'inexcusable' for staff to refuse the vaccine - saying that while it's a small number of people, it is an issue.
The HSE has said legislation allows for staff to be redeployed if their refusal to get a vaccine puts other residents or staff at risk.
However, officials have indicated they're not likely to make vaccination mandatory.
Alison Woods - the director of nursing in Ailsbury and Ashbury private nursing homes in Dublin - told Lunchtime Live that 85% of their staff are patient-facing, so there's limited capacity for redeployment.
She said: “We had a good uptake, but in my view it could have been better. We had around 170 employees - in total 36 have opted not to get the vaccine. There is opportunity for them to change their mind in the coming weeks.
“There’s fear from some of them, anyway - fear in relation to the long-term effects - and some would be hoping to have children in the next year.
"Some of them I would say are valid from that perspective… but others have had their children, and are frontline nurses. I genuinely believe it should be mandatory."
"How do we stop it? We vaccinate staff"
Ms Woods suggested she 'can't really defend' any frontline workers who've decided not to take it, as she feels it's 'part and parcel' of their job as nurses.
She said: “How has COVID gotten into nursing homes in the last six months, when visiting has been restricted?
"It’s not a blame game, and it’s not intentional - but at the end of the day it’s being brought in by staff. How do we stop it? We vaccinate staff.
“We can’t keep residents locked up and away from their families - it’s inhumane."
Ms Woods believes the vaccine should be mandatory, as from their perspective they've done everything they can to entice staff to get it.
She said: "We’ve had raffles... offered €1,000 in cash prizes. There’s been a huge PR campaign.
“Whether that was the reason they took the vaccine or not… we wanted to make sure we did everything we could to encourage people, as much as possible, to take it.
“Over the last year, anyone’s who is in the nursing home business… the cost mentally to families, residents, staff… we can’t keep going like this.
"People will be completely burned out. We need to do everything we can to keep COVID out going forward.”
She pointed to the fact that studies haven't yet shown whether vaccines stop the transmission of the virus, so it's not clear whether a non-vaccinated nurse would be protected even if their colleagues were.