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Vaccine roll-out Professor Sam McConkey warns government not to make the 'same mistake twice'

The infectious disease specialist said that he’s “on the fence” about the new age-based change to the vaccine roll-out programme.

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Professor Sam McConkey

Professor Sam McConkey

Professor Sam McConkey

Professor Sam McConkey has said the government’s decision to change to an age-based vaccine roll-out system favours “pragmatism” - but urged caution in easing restrictions.

Ireland’s National Vaccination Programme is to take a new approach and to change to an age-based system once over 70s, vulnerable people, and those with underlying conditions are vaccinated.

Following expert advice given to the Government, the new arrangement aims to simplify vaccination rollout once the Johnson & Johnson doses arrive later this month.

The changes have been harshly criticised by teachers and gardaí, who were expecting vaccinations to be administered on an occupational basis, as per the original plan.

Professor Sam McConkey, infectious disease specialist at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), said that he’s “on the fence” about the change but that both plans have their “merits.”

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, he explained: “I’m probably on the fence. I think it could work either way. I can see merits in both sides.

“The option the Government has chosen is one favouring pragmatism, ease of delivery, feasibility. It’s easier to roll it out if it’s just a simple criterion of age.

"There's nothing complicated.

“When you have 19 different categories and you have to say ‘Are you this?’ and ‘Are you that?’, everything becomes harder whereas having really simple criteria allows for a really massive rollout.

"As long as we get loads of vaccines in the next month or two, I think people will be happy with it.”

Currently, Level 5 restrictions are set to loosen from April 12th, with the 5km travel limit being lifted and construction resuming.

However, Professor McConkey warned that the Government should be cautious when easing restrictions this month.

He said: “I think the Government’s learned from that experience which went very badly for all of us and they really, really don’t want to repeat it.

"We can all make a mistake once... but making the same mistake twice is a very bad thing.

“We do have a hopeful, better way out of this permanent social distancing which we all hate, and this vaccine gives us that hope.

“But we just don’t have our million doses right now because we haven’t been able to get our hands on it.

"We’re told that that’s improving and if it does then that’s a way out of it,” he continued.

“I suppose the hope is that now we will have broadly a million doses of vaccines for Covid in April and then a million in May, a million in June because these vaccines seem to be so effective.”

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