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GP vaccine rollout to over 85s likely to take six weeks to complete

The vaccination of individuals over the age of 85 by GPs will most likely take about six weeks to complete, the Chair of the IMO GP Committee Dr Denis McCauley has said.

Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI) the Donegal GP said GPs have welcomed revised plans to rollout Covid-19 vaccinations following the decision to favour administration of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to the over 70s age group. 

Around 72,000 people aged over 85 will begin receiving their vaccination from GPs from 15 February, Dr McCauley informed IMO members last Friday night. 

There are 490,000 patients over the age of 70 in the community, almost all of whom are patients of GPs around the country, said Dr McCauley. 

“Within this group the first patients to be vaccinated are those 72,000 over 85s, then moving on to patients between 80 and 84, 75 to 79 and 70 to 74,” he told members.  

“The programme will commence with first deliveries starting on the week of the 15 February and significantly ramp up in subsequent weeks. The deliveries will be scheduled in line with a) supply lines and b) starting with practices who have the largest number of over 85s and working down through the GP practices over the weeks of 15 February, 22 February and 1 March during which time the objective is to vaccinate patients over 85 and then continue on with the age schedule.”

The new advice issued by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and supported by Government last week has presented new challenges for vaccine rollout due to Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccine storage requirements. 

But GPs are confident any new hurdles can be overcome and are eager to start vaccinating  patients as soon as possible. 

The majority of over 70s will be vaccinated in their own GP practices in situations where there are more than 200 over 70s on a GP’s practice list.  

For practices with fewer than 200 over 70s on their list (around 400 practices nationwide) GP-led vaccination clinics in areas such as Dublin, Cork and Galway outside of surgery premise will be facilitated. “Buddying up” with other general practices will also occur to help facilitate roll out. 

Dublin City University (DCU) will be the first such clinic, where 121 practices in the Dublin area who have fewer than 200 over 70s on their lists will come together to run vaccination clinics for patients (over 85s on Clinic 1), Dr McCauley advised. It is expected to begin administering vaccinations on the weekend of 20 February, he added. 

GPs, practice nurses and administrative staff who will do sessions led by a GP, who will organise rotas and scheduling. The clinic will operate at weekends.

“As GPs who have been the first point of contact for Covid assessments and follow-up we are in the best possible position to now commence the roll out of this critically important vaccine programme,” Dr McCauley advised members.

“While the change of vaccine type will present some new challenges we are confident that the body of GPs around the country are anxious to get started and deliver for their patients.  One thing we know is that Covid consistently throws new challenges at us but we will rise to those challenges and the IMO will keep you updated and be there to support you throughout this programme.”

Further details will be communicated to all GPs in a webinar on Tuesday 9 February. 

Dr McCauley said the webinar would provide information on delivery schedules and how GPs order vaccines. 

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