READY AND WAITING Mayo University Hospital staff Nikki Denning and Ronan Ó Cathasaigh pictured inside the Vaccination Centre at Breaffy House, Castlebar.
Qualified welcome for Breaffy centre as rollout timeline still unclear
The opening of the Covid-19 vaccination centre at the Breaffy House Hotel yesterday has been broadly welcomed. However, there is no clarity as to when it will reach its full vaccination capacity of 2,500 people a day.
Frustrated about the lack of a clear path, Cllr Michael Kilcoyne said opening was pointless without the proper number of vaccines in place to vaccinate to the public. The Castlebar-based Independent councillor also questioned exactly how many vaccines will be administered in the Breaffy House vaccination centre this week.
The HSE confirmed that it began vaccinating healthcare workers and medically vulnerable very-high-risk patients in the new centre yesterday morning (Monday).
Mayo TDs Alan Dillon and Dara Calleary both welcomed the opening of the centre, stating that is an important step forward in the vaccination programme.
However, Cllr Kilcoyne, a member of the Regional Health Forum West, said the public want to know when they will receive the vaccine, and he called for more to be done to increase the supply.
“There is no point in opening it unless they are able to give out vaccines. Rather than welcoming the opening of these things, I would be much happier if they got on with getting the vaccines out to the people.
“Opening the Breaffy centre without the vaccines in place is misleading people and giving them false hope. People want to know when they will be able to get the injection. Getting the vaccine out has to be more of a priority than welcoming these things.
“We are great at welcoming things… but in Ireland, from when something is announced to when it happens can be a long period of time. I hope it is not as long with the vaccine,” he said.
A meeting of the Regional Health Forum West is due to take place today (Tuesday), and Cllr Kilcoyne plans to raise the vaccine rollout with the HSE.
‘Huge logistical effort’
The programme to vaccinate health care workers across hospital, community and other health care workers will continue in the new facility, and the site will then be used as a vaccination centre for the wider public.
Commenting on the opening of the facility at Breaffy House, Francis Power, Vaccine Centre Manager, said: “We began vaccinating healthcare workers and medically vulnerable very-high-risk patients in the new centre yesterday morning, and over the coming weeks we will continue to deliver the vaccine programme for the people of Mayo.
“It has been a huge logistical effort to bring this centre into operation and a real example of cross-functional working, with teams from across the health service, local interagency partners, and Breaffy House Resort. When the centre is at capacity, we expect to be vaccinating 2,500 people per day.”
Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta University Health Care Group said the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine will be the single largest vaccination programme ever undertaken in the Irish state and asked the public to be patient.
“To date we have been somewhat limited by the availability of vaccine. We expect that to change over the coming weeks. We currently have access to three different vaccines and expect others to come on stream.
“Centres like the one in Breaffy House will ensure that we have the infrastructure and teams in place and ready to deliver this vaccine to the wider community once we move into that vaccination phase.”
Cllr Kilcoyne also said the public is still getting mixed messages from the HSE about when they will be getting the vaccine.
He explained that he knows of a 90-year-old woman who is housebound who has still to receive her vaccination, despite the HSE saying the the process for vaccinating housebound people had begun.
“I got an email back from the HSE West saying that this process was starting last Monday and people would be contacted. Yet this woman’s daughter told me today (Monday) that nobody has contacted her. The HSE said they will be bringing in the National Ambulance Service to bring the elderly in to get them vaccinated and this woman has yet to be contacted.”
Meanwhile Mayo Senator Lisa Chambers believes that over 80s who are fully vaccinated should get a vaccine bonus and be granted more freedoms.
“My view is that there must be some benefit to receiving the vaccine,” she told the Seanad.
“The over 80s when fully vaccinated should get a vaccine bonus and be granted more freedoms. I don’t think younger people will begrudge older people getting back to living and using public amenities once they’re vaccinated.
“There is no need to keep everyone locked up while we wait to vaccinate younger cohorts. Older people have already lost a full year, and it has been very isolating. A year to someone in their 80s and 90s is a long time so let’s not take any more time from them.
“I see no reason why someone in their 80s or front-line health care workers who are fully vaccinated cannot access the public pool facilities in Castlebar that are opened to elite athletes.”
Senator Chambers also called for a debate to be had in the Seanad in advance of the potential re-opening on April 5.