The chief of a Dublin hospital has apologised after it emerged that Covid-19 vaccines were given to relatives of staff members, including his children.
The Irish Times reports that the master of the Coombe maternity hospital, Professor Michael O’Connell, said he “deeply” regrets that the relatives were administered the vaccine with leftover doses.
The Minister for Health has said the State’s vaccine allocation strategy “does not include family members of healthcare workers”. Frontline healthcare workers are currently being prioritised for the jab under the plan, along with the residents and staff of nursing homes.
Covid-19 vaccine doses were given to 16 family members of the Coombe’s hospital staff on Friday, January 8th after more than 1,100 doses were administered to frontline staff, GPs and local community health workers.
Two of those vaccinated are understood to be Prof O’Connell’s children.
One is understood to be college-going age and a paid part-time worker in his private medical practice, while the other works intermittently in the hospital as an unpaid worker.
Prof O’Connell, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, said in a statement that the vaccines were given to ensure that no doses that had already been “made up” went to waste.
“Had they not been used they would have been discarded. I was keenly aware of that and throughout the evening and from 9.30pm onward I personally made every effort to prioritise and identify additional frontline workers and followed all measures available to me at the time,” he said.
“In hindsight, as Master I deeply regret that family members of employees were vaccinated and for that I wholeheartedly apologise.”
The hospital said that among the 16 relatives who received the vaccine, nine were over the age of 70 and the remaining seven were “of varying age”. It would not identify the individuals.
It added it was able to produce more than 120 additional vaccines - beyond what was anticipated - from its supply of vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on January 8th.
The hospital said it had not been possible to pre-book vaccinations and to be certain of the doses required at the time because the HSE’s vaccination booking system did not go live until the day after the doses were administered.
What happened should not have happened
“The team at the hospital proactively contacted the HSE to inform them of the additional available doses and actively sought out frontline workers to vaccinate,” it said.
The Coombe added it followed Government guidelines on the day and focused on the two current priority groups.
One staff member said: “It’s disgraceful that the master of the hospital arranged for his children to get the vaccine.”
The Minister for Health has said he first became aware of the incident on Sunday night and would be seeking a full account of what happened from the chairman of the hospital’s board.
“Trust in the vaccine programme is of critical importance and what happened should not have happened,” Stephen Donnelly said.
“Our vaccine allocation strategy clearly sets out a priority list for vaccination - and that’s currently for frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff of our long-term resident care facilities.
“It does not include family members of healthcare workers.”