jab scandal | 

Coombe Hospital consultant who took home 'leftover' vaccines did NOT offer them to emergency workers

Prof Michael O'Connell

Prof Michael O'Connell

Eilish O'Regan

Local gardaí or fire brigade staff were not offered leftover Covid-19 vaccines by doctors in the Coombe Hospital who gave the jabs to their own families, an independent review revealed yesterday.

Coombe master Professor Michael O'Connell, who was among doctors who gave leftover vaccines to their own family members, told the review he thought of offering them to gardaí or firefighters but did not suggest it to colleagues.

Prof O'Connell - referred to as Consultant C in the review report - said he was concerned about consent, as well as medical history of gardaí and fire brigade workers.

Nevertheless, one of the consultants was allowed bring vaccines home for two family members.

The report found that 16 vaccines were given to one or more family members of eight staff of the maternity hospital.

Of the 16, nine were over 70 and the remaining seven were of varying age.

Two were family members of Prof O'Connell.

The vaccines were surplus after a vaccination clinic in the hospital on January 8 this year.

The report, carried out by senior counsel Brian Kennedy, revealed 120 "individuals" who were not identified by the local HSE community section or the hospital before arrival, after they got text messages or phone calls from healthcare staff, were vaccinated earlier that evening.

The report does not clarify if there were concerns about the medical history of any of these people.

The vaccination of family members came to light through a whistleblower.

The hospital board, which commissioned the review, said yesterday it takes what happened extremely seriously and has started a process to address the implications.

A spokeswoman for the hospital declined to say what this process involved.

The board said that "in addition, key actions and measures are being implemented to ensure such an incident could not occur again, and hospital guidelines and protocols will be enhanced with a particular focus on embedding our strong values as a community-based voluntary hospital."

Mistakes were made, not least in vaccinating family members and lessons must be learned, it said.

A copy has been sent to the Medical Council Board. Chairwoman Mary Donovan said the vaccination of two family members at home "should not have happened".

The review said decisions on the surplus vaccines were made by a group of 11 staff who met around 9pm.

The decisions reached were by consensus. Staff members interviewed for the review said Prof O'Connell expressed "some form of agreement".

One of the consultants - not Prof O'Connell - took two vials home and said they understood they had permission from the master.

Prof O'Connell said the understanding was that if the consultant was comfortable to take the vaccines home, they were "not standing in their way". He said he did not recall actually saying the consultant could take the vaccines home.

It was early days in the vaccine roll-out and the guidance from the HSE at that point was that surplus vaccine be discarded.

The guidance has since changed, saying there should always be a reserve list of people to call if there is leftover vaccine.

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