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convent outbreak Concern elderly religious orders not on vaccine priority list as six nuns die

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Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry. Photo: Colin Keegan

Six nuns have died in one convent in Newbridge amid growing concern that elderly priests and nuns living together have not been prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The six nuns, who were members of the Holy Order Convent in Newbridge, Co Kildare, died in the last two weeks following an outbreak at the facility.

In the wake of a number of pleas from religious orders to be recognised under the cohort one roll-out, this week the Office of the Chief Clinical officer held discussions with the National Immunisation Advisory Authority about prioritising these types of facilities in the roll-out.

It is understood religious communities in the HSE Community health organisation area 1, covering Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim and parts of Cavan and Monaghan, have been asked to forward details and numbers of religious over-65 to the HSE in preparation for the roll-out of the vaccine in the next week.

Care settings catering for elderly members of religious orders, where dozens of retired nuns and priests are being cared for outside the remit of the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA), had not been listed for vaccination in cohort one. It is understood many of the settings, where some members are in their 80s and 90s and are cared for by privately contracted healthcare workers and nurses, had outbreaks of Covid-19 last year. Deaths occurred as a result.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, David Rose, Secretary General of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, said the organisation was “very concerned about Covid-related deaths in religious communities”.

“Many older religious live in communities, convents and monasteries that are not nursing homes but are at risk,” he said.

“We have highlighted this risk to older religious and their carers to the HSE and asking for a date when the vaccine will be made available to them. We understand that the HSE is considering for priority additional congregated settings included religious, and that is very welcome.” In response to the issue, the HSE said it “will be offering vaccinations across a range of non-registered facilities next week including, for example, some religious retirement facilities”.

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