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Appointment error HSE error sees pharmacies take booster bookings from not yet eligible over-16s

By the time the HSE issued a correction, many people under the age of 50 had already booked appointments for vaccination

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People who are under 50 who booked Covid booster appointments on foot of information provided by the HSE to pharmacies yesterday are in fact not yet eligible to receive a booster, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said.

The IPU said it received information from the HSE yesterday that it could begin to vaccinate people in their 40s, 30s and 20s alongside those over 50, but it later transpired the HSE had sent this “in error”.

People aged 16 to 49 are not yet eligible to come forward for a booster vaccine, it later transpired on Thursday evening.

By the time the HSE issued a correction, many people under the age of 50 had already booked appointments for vaccination, Secretary General of the IPU Darragh O’Loughlin said.

“Yesterday morning, every pharmacy in Ireland got information from the HSE that in addition to focusing on the age cohort over 50 and on healthcare workers, pregnant women and people with underlying conditions, pharmacies could also start to vaccinate, in order of priority, people below the age of 50,” Mr O’Loughlin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“People in their 40s, then in their 30s and 20s and so on, but later on yesterday evening it transpired that the HSE had sent that information in error but pharmacies across the country had already started to implement their new protocols. The information was retracted and we have corrected it with our members overnight,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

Mr O’Loughlin said he believes the appointments made by those in their 20s, 30s and 40s yesterday should be honoured by pharmacies, despite the error, as, “I don’t think anyone should be disadvantaged for acting on information they believed was correct because it came from an official source.

“I don’t imagine it was a huge number of appointments but it would be a shame to see people who have gone to the trouble of arranging an appointment not get the booster they have looked for,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

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Darragh O'Loughlin

Darragh O'Loughlin

Darragh O'Loughlin

 

People over 50 looking to receive a vaccine should “proactively” contact pharmacies in search of an appointment rather than waiting to be called as the number of pharmacies giving boosters has risen to close to 700 in recent days.

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Many pharmacies are fully booked up until Christmas, Mr O’Loughlin said but added that additional capacity may not become available due to the abolition of the 15-minute wait after vaccination.

They can also wait to be contacted for an appointment from their GP or the HSE.

Mr O’Loughlin said supplies are strong but that the ramping up of the booster campaign will put pressure on pharmacies as they cannot scale down normal work, as GPs have been instructed to do, and must continue issuing prescriptions alongside conducting boosters.

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