Vaccine roll out slows, but end is in sight

HOPE Cavan GP believes ‘quality of life’ will return in late June

The slowdown in the supply of the COVID-19 vaccine is hampering the opening up of society, but one local GP is urging people to stay the course as the end is in sight.

A key meeting on Monday saw the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), party leaders and key senior Ministers discuss the potential for relaxing restrictions from April 5 (Easter Monday).

It's understood that the key message from health experts was that not enough people have been vaccinated to take risks when it comes to easing COVID-19 restrictions.

Ministers were told that, if the State lost control of the disease now, there could be a substantial wave of infections until the middle of the summer, whereas a cautious approach for the next four to eight weeks could cut the risk by between 50 and 70 per cent.

One local GP says, despite difficulties with the delivery of vaccines, it is important to remain positive.

“It’s frustrating, but you can’t spend your life going around frustrated about everything,” Niall Collins told the Celt.

Dr Collins acknowledges the setbacks in the projected delivery of vaccines: “They [The HSE] are giving us whatever vaccines they have. Initially we were told there would be a constant delivery over a 12-week period to meet demand for all the over 70s, we started off well for the first two sessions, but for the last two sessions our supply has been cut by 50%.”

That shortfall in supply means that the estimated roll out of 12 weeks has now been extended to 16 weeks, however the programme continues. “It’s all good news for everyone who is getting the vaccine, there is good progress, but it is not as good as we hoped.”

The GP says the public are respectful of the programme. “We have lists of people who we need to contact. We know who is high on the priority list. We have not been inundated by people looking for vaccinations, people are very good. Everyone is tuned into the fact that they should not be ringing their GP to get the vaccine,” he tells.

To date all of the over 85s in Cavan GPs practice have had both vaccines, the over 80s have had their first vaccine: “We have progressed to the over 75 to 80s, but only the over 85s have received their full schedule as we speak.”

Dr Collin emphasises the importance of recognising the progress: “People are living the roller-coaster of emotions. There is good news one day and bad news the next. The predominant feeling is ‘when is this ever going to end?’. We need to stand back and say ‘this is an amazing vaccine’. The target is to vaccinate 80% by the end of June. That is phenomenal. This year is a little bit more traumatic than we expected, but we are moving toward the right place. We need to keep focused on the fact a lot of good stuff is happening, albeit a little bit later than expected.”

That positivity is tempered with warning about complacency: “There is a feeling that once the vulnerable are vaccinated we can go back to a normal life. Whereas you could do that with an illness like the ‘flu, you can’t do that with COVID. Ultimately if you let it go, it will become rampant in the community. Sure the over 70s will be less likely to be affected, but the 50 and 60 year old people will be the ones causing the hospital system to be creaking and under pressure. It may take higher numbers and a little bit longer time, but it will happen.”

The Drumalee Primary Care Centre doctor says an end of the crisis that has dominated our lives is perceptible: “By the end of June a semblance of a quality of life will return.”

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