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Immunise this Vaccine plan will be ready by December 11, Taoiseach Micheal Martin says


Micheál Martin

Micheál Martin


Micheál Martin

A national Covid-19 vaccination strategy and implementation plan will be ready for consideration by the Government in nine days’ time, according to the Taoiseach.

He has been assured by the chairman of the new High Level Taskforce on the issue, Prof Brian McCraith, that the plan will be ready by December 11, Micheál Martin told the Dáil.

But he was told that a Minister for Vaccination should sit at Cabinet to ensure the orderly roll-out of Covid protection for all citizens.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said he had a serious concern about coordination of the programme in 2021, despite very eminent people serving on the High Level Task Force to look at the matter.

“I have a serious concern about leaving it to the current structures of the agencies that we have, and their capacity for dealing with the most important thing facing us as a country,” Mr Kelly said. The flu vaccination programme this year had “left a lot to be desired”.

There was a task force and a Cabinet subcommittee, he said, but also other bodies, agencies and vested interests that cold have different perspectives and priorities as time went on.

“The reality is that somebody needs to be in charge of the vaccine roll-out. Somebody needs to be in charge of rules by which each and every agency, and every organisation acts.”
One person needed to be responsible at the Cabinet table, he said, and the Taoiseach was too busy, as was the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly with other matters.

The logistics of the rollout was “going to be massive”, with rules around who is going to get what and when, he warned.

“There is also the whole issue about mandatory versus non-mandatory, as to how we open up with people who don’t get vaccinated,” he said.

He asked if people who refused vaccination would be allowed into events and public spaces. “How would you have rules around that? I can’t even imagine it,” he said.

There were also issues around travel and passports, he said, and whether Covid-19 protection would be recorded on passport technology.

“So the actual work of this committee is not just going to be for the roll-out, so everyone gets vaccinated and we’re all happy. There are legacy issues here that are going to have to be politically managed and that needs somebody at Cabinet who will say, ‘I’m in charge’,” he said.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said one answer to how we deal with the vaccination roll-out was to have our public health teams at optimum level “because they’re the people who did deliver immunisation programmes.”

But these same staff are taking industrial action after Christmas “because we have shown them zero respect”, he said.

The action was coming at a time when they had never been of more value to society.

He asked how, without increased consultant specialists in public health staff, the State was to supposed to deliver a vaccination programme, “as well as the contact tracing and testing that’s necessary”.

The Taoiseach said the Government was “absolutely and wholly committed to the timely implementation of the Covid-19 immunisation programme once the vaccines are approved for use”.

“We will receive vaccine doses on a population pro-rata basis of 1.11% of the total European Union delivery,” Mr Martin said.

The High Level Taskforce had identified complex logistical challenges, including storage and transport requirements, “and it’s clear the roll-out of the vaccine will require very careful and detailed all-of-Government planning”, he said.

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