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Saolta chief urges public to get booster


'VACCINES WORK' Saolte chief Tony Canavan. Pic: Keith Heneghan

Anton McNulty

MEMBERS of the public should avail of the booster vaccine when it becomes available to them, as current hospital numbers prove it works.
That is the opinion of Tony Canavan, the CEO of the Saolta Group, which includes Mayo Unversity Hospital. Mr Canavan said that despite a surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases in the community, the number of hospital admissions is well below that seen during last winter’s third wave.
The six Saolta Group hospitals currently have 115 patients with Covid-19. While Mr Canavan believes this number is a concern, it nevertheless proves that the vaccine works.
“The simple message we are trying to convey is that the vaccine does work, and the booster provides an addition level of cover as well,” he said, urging people ‘to go out and get the booster vaccine when it is offered’.
“The vaccination does work, and we can see the evidence in our hospitals today, despite the significant numbers in hospital. This fourth wave has shown that the numbers are a lot lower than the third wave. We are seeing more patients who are Covid-19 positive in our ICUs who are unvaccinated,” he told members of the Health Forum West at the most recent online meeting.
The HSE is currently giving booster doses to people aged 60 or older, health-care workers, those living in a nursing home or a long-term heath care facility, and people aged 16 to 49 years with an underlying medical condition.
When these categories of people are given the booster vaccine, it will then be made available to pregnant women aged 16 years and older and people aged 50 to 59, followed by the 40-to-49 age group and then the 16-to-39 group.

Health-care staffing
The meeting also heard that 97 percent of health-care workers have been fully vaccinated. However, concerns remain over the availability of nursing staff due to Covid-related sick leave. Sixty-one covid-related absences were recorded over the last 60 days across primary health-care services and community health care in Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.
Despite a recruitment drive, Seamus Beirne, Regional Manager with the HSE, said that there is no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ regarding recruitment and that there are not many unemployed nurses actively seeking work.
Tuam-based councillor Donagh Killilea praised nurses’ commitment to putting their shoulder to the wheel in the current crisis. However, he added that he believes that unvaccinated health-care workers should not be dealing with patients face to face.
“I would be very disappointed if a health-care worker dealing with patients face to face did not have the vaccination. If someone cannot go to the cinema without a vaccination they should not be working one-on-one care with patients,” he commented.
Breda Crehan Roche, Chief Officer with Community Healthcare West, responded by saying that they had to respect people’s choices not to take the vaccine but they were trying to educate people on its benefits and proven effectiveness.