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Older patients prepared to travel for Covid vaccine – Cowley

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SOLIDARITY AMONG GPS  Dr Jerry Cowley, Mulranny.

Anton McNulty

GPs in rural areas are prepared to ‘buddy up’ with larger primary-care centres in urban parts of the county if it means their patients will be get a Covid-19 vaccine sooner.
Last week, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) advised against the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 70. This has presented a logistical problem for GPs, as the alternative Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have stricter storage requirements.
The next phase of the rollout is due to start with the over 85s in the week starting Monday next, February 15. A webinar hosted by the Irish Medical Organisation due to to take place this week is expected to advise GPs on the vaccine rollout in surgeries around the country.
Mulranny-based GP, Dr Jerry Cowley explained that he has not been made aware of how many vaccines will be delivered to administer for the over 85s. He believes that given the number of patients over 70 in his practice, he should be able to administer the vaccine in Mulranny. However, if there are delays and and logistical reasons for not doing so, he says his patients are prepared to travel for their jab.
“I did a straw poll of my patients, and to a person they were prepared to travel to Westport if it means they will get the vaccine. There is great solidarity among GPs, and if it is a case that patients will have to travel, it is agreed to buddy up with the larger primary-care centres to allow outside patients get the vaccine. It would be still myself and my team who would administer the vaccine to my patients,” he told The Mayo News.

‘Licence to live’
Dr Cowley said that GPs are like Santa Claus getting their list of patients over 85s ready, and he is looking forward to contacting them once the vaccine is available. He said that if a delivery of the vaccine does go to Mulranny, the Mulranny Amenity Centre will be used, as it will be large enough to adhere to social distancing.
He added that the vaccine will be a lifesaver, which is why every vaccine that is made available must be rolled out as quickly as possible.
“There has to be an urgency to getting our elderly people vaccinated, because the vaccine is a licence to live and a licence to leave their house. There are people who have not left their home since March out of fear of contracting the virus, and that fear is real. They have not been able to leave their home and are afraid of people visiting in case they bring it in. The vaccine is a licence to live and that is why people are prepared to travel in order to get it,” he said.
Dr Cowley said the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine would have been a lot easier for GPs to administer in the community, but he agrees with the NIAC decision even though he has confidence in the vaccine. He added that vaccination arrangements will be put in place for people who are unable to leave their home.