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'left behind' Cystic fibrosis sufferer says 'vulnerable people' are getting conflicting advice on vaccine roll out

"They way they're dividing up the vulnerable people, it's just completely unethical."

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Aoife Rafter who has Cystic Fibrosis

Aoife Rafter who has Cystic Fibrosis

Aoife Rafter who has Cystic Fibrosis

SOME people with underlying health conditions are being given conflicting advice about when they'll be able to get the Covid-19 vaccine, as the HSE moves to offer it to vulnerable people.

From next week, the HSE will be offering the vaccine to people over the age of 16 who are immunocompromised and at very high risk of severe illness due to Covid-19.

However, for people such as Aoife P Rafter in Naas, Co Kildare, it's unclear whether her illnesses would qualify her as a high enough risk to be included in this fourth cohort of vaccination patients.

"I've been speaking to lots of people that are in similar situations to me, and our GPs are telling us differently to our own consultants," she said.

"Like: 'oh no, you're in cohort four', 'oh no, you're in cohort seven'."

Ms Rafter is a health and wellness blogger who has cystic fibrosis, as well as recently finishing radiotherapy for cervical cancer in January 2020.

"They way they're dividing up the vulnerable people, it's just completely unethical," she said.

"They're telling us that they're giving the vaccine to the people that need it most, but not including people like me in cohort four - that's leaving us behind.

"So many people have not even been able to get certain tests done that would show if they're still immuno-compromised, or stable enough cystic fibrosis, because how could we even tell that when our appointments have been altered?"

Cohort four does include people with severe cystic fibrosis, however it's not clear for some how severe is severe enough.

Ms Rafter, for example, has quite high functioning lungs and, as such, is in more of a grey area.

"It depends on how they're judging stable cystic fibrosis," she said.

"My lung function is quite high, it's like 87pc or 90pc, depending on the week.

"I'm also not a transplant patient so I wouldn't be as immuno-compromised as those people. So that's why it's not even really clear.

"You don't even know who to go to for guidance."

Like many vulnerable people, Ms Rafter has had to cocoon since the start of the pandemic, which has been difficult at times.

For her, the vaccine would take away a lot of stress that remains due to fear of getting the virus.

"The fear is huge," she said. "Just to feel safe in St Vincent's when I need to go in there for treatment or check-up - that would be just life-altering.

"It's really hard to make those calls to figure out and risk assess going into the hospital, when there's Covid in the hospital, versus like staying at home and letting an infection get worse.

"For our [cocooners] situation in general, I don't think the average person understands what's involved for the people like us.

"They don't understand how severe it is and how it's affecting our overall health situation."

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