FOLLOWING weeks of speculation and worry about the speed of the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines, dozens of over 85s received their first Covid-19 jab this week.
While most GP practices across the city and county will not receive their allocation of vaccines until later this month, around 130 doses were administered at the Old Windmill Medical Centre in Limerick city on Monday and Tuesday.
“It ran very smoothly, the delivery came on time, we have a good understanding of the timeline and the safe refrigeration of the vaccine. We had probably four days to give the vaccine but we chose to give it as quickly as possible,” Dr Ronan Ryder told the Limerick Leader.
A test run, involving 16 patients was carried out at the clinic on Monday evening with the remainder of its over 85s receiving their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Tuesday.
“We had six doctors vaccinating and we brought people in, in blocks of six every fifteen minutes. It’s a huge logistical undertaking but we are delighted to have been given the opportunity. General Practice is very well placed to do this – there will be some teething problems initially but we can handle this volume and we can handle the larger volume if needed,” added Dr Ryder.
The well-known GP revealed that receiving the delivery of the vaccine “was like the leaving cert results” with staff gathering around to see the so called ‘pizza box’ containing the viles up close.
“We are just so delighted to see that we are now, eventually, going on the offensive against this virus and that we are the frontline soldiers that can win this battle and win it quickly,” he said, adding that the response from patients has been phenomenal.
“Honestly, every single person was totally delighted and not one person questioned it and not one person refused. Everybody turned up. We explained a lot about the vaccine when people came in but there was no hesitancy at all about taking the vaccine – people were absolutely thrilled when they got the phone call, absolutely delighted,” he said.
As the supply of vaccines grows in the coming weeks, the focus will turn to smaller GP practices across Limerick and the mass vaccination centres, details of which were revealed this week.
However, one doctor in County Limerick has said he won’t be administering the vaccine to his patients.
Dr Pat Morrissey told RTÉ Radio 1's Liveline last week that he will not deliver the treatment himself.
But, speaking to the Limerick Leader this week he said he is “not going to stand in the way of patients wanting to do what they think is the best thing for their health once they are informed”. The jabs, he said, will be administered by one of his colleagues at Adare Medical Centre.
“Once I am satisfied a patient is consented properly and they undergo a proper consent process, then it is the patient's choice. It's bizarre that I am being accused of something, people don't want to understand the details. You're either boxed into one category or the other, and there's no nuance in how the whole issue of Covid-19 is discussed,” he said.
While, there was some positive news regarding vaccines this week, a political row has erupted over the proposed location of the mass vaccination centre for Limerick at the Radisson Blu Hotel on the outskirts of the city.
Mayor of the city and county of Limerick, Cllr Michael Collins has contacted the HSE to voice his concerns.
As it stands, the Newcastle West-based politician will face an almost 100km round-trip when it comes to his turn to get the jab. “It’s simply the wrong location,” he said.
Deputy Richard O’Donoghue has also criticised the location while Minister-of-State Patrick O’Donovan has suggested a second vaccination centre could be located elsewhere in Limerick.
“I have been in contact with the Minister of Health. I have identified the size of County Limerick as a huge issue. The county is a huge geographical area. I have made him aware of that this afternoon and I am hoping that he will be back to examine it,” he said,
“There are two centres in County Wicklow which would be smaller than Limerick and a smaller population than Limerick city and county put together,” he added. A spokesperson for the HSE told the Limerick Leader it is possible that additional centres will open.
“Using CSO Census population data, the HSE has located 37 vaccination centres, ranging in capacity from 10 to 50 vaccination booths, which will be used to vaccinate the wider population. Criteria for selection included ease of access, transport links and parking,” he said.
“These centres will come on stream as needed, with a dedicated workforce, from late March/early April. This list is subject to change as additional locations are identified.”
Pictures by Brendan Gleeson