It happened on Friday, January 8, after 1,100 frontline staff as well as local GPs and community health workers were vaccinated at the hospital.
According to the hospital, the decision was taken so that no
vaccine would go to waste, after workers and those it has been tasked with administering the first dose had got it.
The master of the Coombe, Professor Michael O'Connell, last night apologised that family members of employees were vaccinated.
The hospital would not give details about the family members who got the vaccine other than to say there were 16 of them –
nine were over the age of 70 and seven were “of varying age”.
In a statement last night, it said that, at the time the vaccinations were given, “the HSE booking system and portal was not live, as it came online the following morning Saturday 9, and so it was not possible to pre-book vaccinations and therefore be certain of the number of vaccinations required.
“It is important to note that the HSE booking system and portal is now live,” the statement added. The hospital said it worked throughout the day, reconstituting the vials and making vaccines available to frontline workers.
“At the time, five vaccines were expected from each vial. However, throughout the day it was possible to get six doses out of most vials, and in some cases seven.
“As a direct result of this operational efficiency, over 120 additional vaccines, over and above what had been anticipated, were made available,” it said.
According to the hospital, the team there contacted the HSE to inform them of the additional available doses and “actively sought out frontline workers” to vaccinate.
“The hospital followed government guidelines and focused on the two current priority groups,” it said.
“It would not be appropriate for the hospital to comment on the individuals involved,” the statement said.
Last night, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said he had only just been made aware of the situation.
“Trust in the vaccine programme is of critical importance and what happened should not have happened.
“Our vaccine allocation strategy clearly sets out a priority list for vaccination - and that’s currently for frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff of our long-term residential care facilities.
“It does not include family members of healthcare workers,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said he would be speaking with the chair of the Coombe board of management to seek a full account.
Prof O’Connell said he regretted the decision.
“The decision to use the vaccines that had already been made up was made to ensure that not a single reconstituted vaccine was wasted.
“Had they not been used they would have been discarded. I was keenly aware of that and throughout the evening and from 9.30pm onward I personally made every effort to prioritise and identify additional frontline workers and followed all measures available to me at the time.
“In hindsight as master, I deeply regret that family members of employees were vaccinated and for that I wholeheartedly apologise.”
Meanwhile, staff at a private diagnostic clinic were vaccinated before public healthcare workers, it has emerged.
Vaccinations were given to employeees at the Affidea clinic in Dublin last week while nurses in Nenagh Hospital in Tipperary were forced to publicly plead for vaccines.
Affidea, which charges patients up to €100 for X-rays and €260 for MRIs, did not respond to a request for comment on why its staff were vaccinated before public healthcare workers. Labour leader Alan Kelly said it was “scandalous” that private hospital staff had been vaccinated ahead of public health workers.
The Health Minister said his vaccination plan did not distinguish between public and private healthcare workers.