Dr Dara Hume.

GP rang over 1,000 patients in bid to use up vaccines

Walk-in vaccine appointments organised at local surgeries

GP rang over 1,000 patients in bid to use up vaccines

General Practitioners in Cavan, the mass vaccination clinic, and even the local hospital, are in a race against time to get vaccine stock used up before they pass their expiry date in the coming days.

Like other local surgeries anxious not to allow any vaccines go to waste, Dr Muredach Fergus of Belturbet Medical Practice says the team there has made “close to 1,000 phonecalls” over the past week in the hope of finding willing candidates. “Probably more if I’m honest.”

Like others too, Belturbet Medical Practice is hosting a walk-in booster and first or second vaccination clinic by appointment every day this week, ready to provide jabs to anyone age 16 years and over, and has not had Covid in the last three months.

“Once they’re out of date, they’re out of date,” Dr Fergus says of the 60 expiring vaccines sitting in a fridge waiting to be used.

“We got some before Christmas, they were used. We got some between Christmas and New Year and we’re running out of time with them.”

January 22 is the cut off point, and donating them to other countries is not feasible due to the rapidly decreasing time-frame.

Dr Fergus says he was “stunned” while calling patients in the 18-30 cohort to learn just how many of those had contracted Covid in the previous four weeks alone. “Absolutely huge numbers, and either that or they were in isolation because a close contact had confirmed Covid.”

The other factor that surprised Dr Fergus also was the “huge number” he found had already received the booster vaccine, or were planning to get it in the coming days.

Dr Fergus believes the “greatest threat probably” going forward will be the continued emergence of asymptomatic cases in the community who infect others but go undetected.

Cavan Town walk-ins

At the Drumalee Surgery in Cavan Town, Dr Dara Hume and the team there contacted 740 people on their books aged 16-70 years. A third came back to say they’d attend, but that number declined severely as Omicron took grip in the community, while others opted for appointments at the nearby Kilmore vaccination clinic.

“We all put a big push on in the run up to Christmas to get as many of our patients boosted as possible. But because of one reason or another, suddenly we’ve gone from what we projected to still having bottles waiting to be used.”

The Drumalee Surgery has over 150 doses of the Pfizer vaccine left to administer, and like the Belturbet Medical Practice, these go out of date on January 22.

Drumalee will be taking walk-in appointments from Wednesday afternoon, January 19, and on Thursday, January 20 as well if demand requires it.

“Pathologically optimistic,” Dr Hume hopes none go to “waste”.

She says this time last year people would have “paid big money” if only to get their first or second jab. “It’s ethical, it’s moral. I don’t want one of these doses to be wasted,” says Dr Hume, who contacted local factories to see if workers there wanted to be vaccinated.

“Certainly with Omicron and where it’s at at the moment, it’s absolutely the time for everyone to take every protection they can.”