Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.23 4 Mar 2021


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GPs say they are frustrated with the vaccine rollout, and a lack of communication from the Health Service Executive (HSE).

Dr Marie Scully practices in Navan, Co Meath and told Lunchtime Live things started well - but several issues have arisen.

"We had our first vaccination clinic Friday two weeks ago, we're having our second one tomorrow and so far, so good.

"But I am in communication with lots of my colleagues both nationally and locally, and it isn't the same for a lot of practices who are very upset with the level of communication the HSE and them, with cold chain deliveries, with people being promised one lot of vaccines [and] not getting them, getting more than they ordered, getting less then they ordered: having no contact at all".

Dr Scully said some practices have had no communication "despite constant ringing and e-mailing.

"It's really frustrating".

'Left in limbo'

She said there is a dedicated HSE e-mail for GPs on vaccines "but when you e-mail you get no response at all".

And she said a subsequent dedicated vaccine phone line "either that doesn't answer, or you get somebody answering who says 'We'll take your details and ring you back' and they never ring you back.

"We can plan anything once we know what's happening, but to be left in limbo or in the dark and not know how many vaccines we're going to get, when we're going to get them is really frustrating.

"It's a huge amount of work on our part to organise a vaccine clinic, to have everybody coming in at their spaced intervals... and these are over 85s and over 80s.

"They often have mobility problems, may need to have a carer with them - so it's not that they can just run in at the drop of a hat."

coronavirus vaccines Dr Marie Scully delivers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Picture via @MarieOScully on Twitter

Dr Scully said one example saw a GP have to change his plans several times.

"In one case a GP said he had a phone call on Monday this week to confirm his delivery of vaccines on Wednesday.

"So he booked his clinic for Thursday, then he got a call at 5.15 on Monday to say that that was an error and now his vaccines would be delivered on Friday.

"So he had to call all his patients and cancel the Thursday clinic.

"On Tuesday, the following day, he got a phone call to say his vaccines would be delivered on Wednesday... but then on Wednesday [there were] no vaccines, and he was told 'Well maybe Friday'".

'Making us look incompetent'

"People are dying to get this vaccine, they really are so keen - and to be put off or told 'we're not getting it this week maybe next week': it kind of makes it look like we're the inept ones, incompetent ones.

"A lot of patients are taking their ire out on us, I've heard from my colleagues around the country.

"But unfortunately it isn't - it's all down to the HSE, I'm afraid".

GPs frustrated at 'no contact at all' from HSE on vaccines

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It come as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted there has been issues with the vaccine rollout plan.

Speaking in the Dáil, he blamed an under-delivery from AstraZeneca for missing last week's target of 100,000 vaccinations.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs also criticised the speed of the vaccine rollout at their respective parliamentary party meetings on Wednesday night.

Mr Varadkar said some of that criticism is justified.

"I appreciate that there have been some issues and have been some delays.

"A consignment of 25,000 AstraZeneca vaccines that we had expected to arrive last week did not arrive at short notice.

"We're told it will arrive before the end of the month, allowing us to catch up.

"So there will be weeks where we fall behind target, there will be weeks where we go ahead of target".

HSE 'on target'

In a statement, the HSE said: "We are on target to administer dose one to the c. 72k >85 sub cohort by the end of this week, as scheduled.

"We have also begun administration of vaccine to the 80-84 sub-cohort this week. Over 1,300 GP practices have now participated in the vaccine programme.

"Large scale GP clinics have taken place in the Helix DCU, MTU in Cork and Merlin Park Galway with over 1,500 over 85’s receiving the vaccine at these locations."

The HSE added that it is aware that "for a relatively small number of GP practices there have been operational issues regarding ordering and delivery schedules.

"However we have endeavoured to respond to them quickly and to resolve issues as they arise."

Main image: Dr Marie Scully receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Picture via @MarieOScully on Twitter

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AstraZeneca Covid Vaccine Dedicated HSE E-mail Dr Marie Scully GPs Leo Varadkar Lunchtime Live Vaccine Clinics Vaccine Rollout

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