Health Minister calls on HSE to suspend Beacon hospital vaccination programme

Health Minister Calls On Hse To Suspend Beacon Hospital Vaccination Programme
It comes after the hospital administered spare vaccines to 2o staff members of a private school in Co Wicklow. Photo: PA Media
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James Cox

Updated at 14:20

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly has called on the HSE to suspend the vaccination programme at the Beacon Hospital.


It comes after the hospital administered spare vaccines to 20 staff members of a private school in Co Wicklow.

In a statement released today, the Minister said “Ireland’s vaccination programme is the most important public health programme in living memory.

“It is essential that the programme is run in accordance with the agreed prioritisation in order to maximise the benefit of the vaccination programme and the speed with which Ireland can emerge from Covid-19 measures.

“The provision of vaccines by the Beacon Hospital to a school was entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable.”


He said he considered the matter carefully and had worked with the HSE to assess the operational implications of suspending the vaccination programme at the Beacon Hospital.

He added “I have now asked the HSE to suspend vaccine operations at the Beacon Hospital with the exception of those people who have already been scheduled to get their vaccine at the centre. Alternative arrangements are being put in place by the HSE.

“In addition, I have asked the HSE to appoint a senior official to immediately examine what happened and make recommendations regarding any actions or changes required.”

It comes as medically vulnerable people are calling on the Beacon Hospital to acknowledge the harm it has caused by giving spare Covid vaccines to teachers.


CEO of the hospital, Michael Cullen, apologised yesterday for the incident surrounding the spare vaccines.

The jab is currently being rolled out to those in cohort 4 — school staff are part of cohort 11 in the programme.

Philip Watt, chairperson of the Irish Donor Network and CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, says the incident is extremely disappointing.


Mr Watt told Newstalk: “Many in our community, the cystic fibrosis community, have been cocooning and staying at home for the past year. Many people have lost their jobs because of Covid-19, so it is really raw in terms of the issue of the principles of the vaccination programme.”


Following the controversy, a HSE spokesman said a senior official would work with the Beacon to ensure that on a day-to-day basis the standards set out by the HSE for the operation of the vaccination programme are maintained.

Separately, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told RTÉ’s Six One that the hospital’s vaccination of private school staff was “completely unacceptable” but said preventing it from issuing further vaccines would be “counterproductive”.

The boss of AstraZeneca says Ireland can expect a “large volume” of vaccines in the coming weeks.

In an interview with The Irish Times, the new country president Dan Wygal says the firm's overcoming some manufacturing problems it has encountered.


827,000 AstraZeneca doses were expected in the first quarter based on advance purchase agreements, but just 228,000 have arrived.

Mr Wygal declined to apologise but said he feels “highly accountable” to do all he can to improve the situation.

Mr Wygal, who started as the firm's Irish president three weeks ago, said “in the coming weeks we’ll have some of the largest shipments yet sent into Ireland”.

The largest shipment so far, 100,000 doses, will arrive in Ireland next week.

“I’m not in a position to quote on absolute numbers. In the coming weeks, we’ll have some of the largest shipments yet sent into Ireland. That speaks to us driving towards that commitment of stabilising and increasing supply in the coming weeks and months,” said Mr Wygal.

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