‘Frustration’ as Ireland’s vaccine programme lags behind UK
Written by Hit Music Radio News on 24/02/2021
“It is very frustrating”, admits Dr Laura Malone. “At the moment we don’t have any vaccine.”
Standing in her bright, modern clinic in the centre of the lakeside tourist town of Killarney, Ireland, the GP is palpably keen to start vaccinating her elderly patients against COVID-19 but is still awaiting delivery of the doses.
“We have around 250 patients in the age cohort that we need to vaccinate [over-85s],” she says.
“It’s frustrating, but we also look at that with some degree of hope, because we’re happy that we’ll be able to provide this to our patients. Hopefully the end is in sight.”
She’s not alone. Sky News spoke to all seven GP practices in the picturesque Co Kerry town. Only one, Deenagh Medical Practice, had taken delivery of vaccines and was administering doses. Two more are hoping for their first delivery today, while several others thought they may get vaccines next week, but weren’t sure.
It’s a disjointed picture. One practice staff member, who didn’t want to be named, said she couldn’t understand why there was such little information given to them about vaccine delivery.
Another GP, Dr Gary Stack of Park Medical, also uses the word “frustration”, and says communications with the various practices could have been better. He expects his first delivery next Tuesday, more than two weeks after the Irish government announced the start of GP-led vaccinations.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) told Sky News: “We are delivering vaccines to GP practices according to the level of supply being delivered to the country. We understand that GPs and their patients are eager to receive the vaccine. We are working to control and stagger the delivery of vaccines in line with this level of supply.”
But it’s the supply that’s the problem for Ireland, like many EU member states. Around 4.5% of the population have received at least a first dose, a rate lagging far behind its nearest neighbour the UK.
That means the Dublin government had little choice this week but to extend the strict Level 5 lockdown until 5 April at the earliest, with no dates given for the reopening of retail or hospitality.
In Killarney, one restaurateur has grabbed headlines by boldly announcing he will reopen on 1 July “no matter what government restrictions might exist”.
“I’m prepared to be arrested,” says Paul Treyvaud, standing outside his eponymous restaurant on High Street. “It’s a wake-up call for the government to turn around and say, listen we’ve got to take into account that there’s more going on here than ICU numbers and cases.
“If restaurants and businesses here in Killarney and right around rural Ireland aren’t open by this summer, we’re going to have a major problem coming down the line.”
“We’re putting out a fire by looking at COVID,” he says, “but we’re not realising there’s a volcano behind us burning everything down.”
The frustration at the lengthy and uncertain lockdown is acute among Killarney’s young people. Damien Switzer, 18, is a typical example. Studying a third-level course from home and denied the normal college experience, he can’t see friends that live more than 5km away due to travel restrictions. A keen Gaelic footballer, his team are on hiatus and he must train alone.
On Tuesday he noticed the training pitch at this club, Glenflesk GAA, was completely flooded. He kitted out and jumped into the icy waist-deep water anyway, and the resultant TikTok video went viral.
“Sure, what else would I be doing with the lockdown,” he laughs. “I had to do something to lift the spirits. Not playing sport with my friends can be frustrating alright, but I suppose it’s for the better good though. Once the lockdown’s over we’ll have the summer to play together and train together. But yeah, it can be frustrating.”
That will continue for another six weeks at least, and most likely longer. The Irish government points out that its vaccination rollout is among the most successful within the EU and that it is placing more of an emphasis on both doses being delivered, unlike the UK’s approach.
But Ireland started slowly and is only now picking up pace. In towns like Killarney – fearing a second summer without tourists – there are still too many vaccinators waiting for too few doses. The wait goes on…and so does the lockdown.
© Sky News 2020