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Covid-19 vaccination begins for medically vulnerable in homeless services

The Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, has welcomed the commencement of the Covid-19 vaccination programme for medically vulnerable people living in homeless services in Dublin city.

Today the Minister attended the temporary vaccination clinic set up by the HSE in Dublin city centre. The clinic will provide vaccination for 700 medically vulnerable people living in homeless services over the next two weeks, with approximately 350 people due to receive the vaccine this week alone.

This is the initial phase of the vaccination programme for socially excluded groups who have been prioritised by the national immunisation advisory committee as having significantly increased risk of illness from Covid-19.

These include people who are homeless and members of the Traveller and Roma communities. The HSE has established a national operational working group to develop and implement a vaccination pathway for these groups using bespoke and targeted vaccination clinics.

Minister Feighan said: ‘This is a landmark day in the Covid-19 vaccination programme as the HSE commences the inoculation of medically vulnerable people in homeless services. Vaccination of this group demonstrates the value the Government places on equity and inclusion in the public health service.”

He also paid tribute to the frontline healthcare workers who have protected medically vulnerable people in homeless services during Covid-19.

 “The work of the Dublin Covid-19 homeless response team, the HSE, the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive and voluntary service providers have greatly minimised the potentially devastating impact of Covid-19 on this group.

“Today, they are seeing the rewards for their efforts with the vaccination of their clients. I also want to thank the staff administering the vaccine and the Salvation Army for hosting this clinic.

“I want to congratulate the individuals attending the clinic, who have had to endure personal sacrifices to remain safe during Covid-19. Today, they will begin to return to social activities. Their return to society will be a positive one due to the health supports they have received during Covid-19.

“One of the benefits of the pandemic is that we have found new ways to provide health services for people who are homeless. These are backed up by an additional investment of €11 million in health services for people who are homeless during Covid-19 though the HSE national service plan 2021.”

The vaccination programme for people who are medically vulnerable in homeless services is being delivered in bespoke ways: it is using the one-shot Janssen vaccine, which is new to Ireland; the HSE is providing transport to and from the vaccination clinic; and there is an active communications plan to encourage and support people to take-up the vaccine.

 Minister Feighan said: “The rollout of the vaccination programme to all those in prioritised socially excluded groups will ultimately benefit over 40,000 individuals. The delivery of the programme takes into account the unique circumstances affecting these groups, including difficulties some may have in accessing and engaging with health services.

“Other at-risk groups, such as residents in direct provision and people attending drug treatment services, will benefit from this targeted approach in due course.

“The Covid-19 vaccination programme is well advanced and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Irish people, there has been a marked improvement in the incidence of the virus in the community.

“The programme is a key enabler to the reopening of society and the economy, and is well underway with over 30 per cent of the eligible population with at least one dose.”

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