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IMO close to agreement on Covid-19 vaccinations in general practice

Agreement between health officials and the IMO on the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations at GP surgeries is at an advanced stage, with proposals due to be presented to Cabinet for sign-off shortly, the Medical Independent (MI) has learned.

Details of the agreement will be revealed to GP members of the organisation on Tuesday 19 January during a live webinar featuring demonstrations on how to operate and run mass vaccination clinics.

Speaking to MI, Chair of the IMO GP Committee Dr Denis McCauley said plans were underway to commence rollout of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to the over 70s by the middle of February.

“We hope to vaccinate several hundred a day, starting with the over 70s and followed by those who are at risk under the age of 70,” said Dr McCauley.

But the numbers vaccinated on a daily basis at GP surgeries is subject to three factors, said Dr McCauley, namely: vaccine storage requirements, supervision requirements post vaccination and supply.

If all of these requirements are met and the process runs smoothly, with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) yet to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine and the specified supervision time post vaccination, then the pace of vaccinations could be accelerated, he explained.

“It is very important that the rollout is run swiftly and ethically. This needs to be above reproach,” he remarked, adding that if the system encountered difficulties or the vaccines were not rolled out in line with HSE guidelines, anger and frustration would emerge.

Dr Maitiú Ó Faoláin, an Ashbourne based GP, told the paper that when AstraZeneca vaccine stock is distributed to GPs then “every single person aged over 70 could be done in under a week”.

He cautioned, however, that this was contingent on cold chain augmentation to move stock, with assistance required from the Defence Forces.

On the subject of GP and practice staff vaccinations, Dr McCauley said the majority of GPs were being vaccinated nationally in local nursing homes and hospitals.

More than 1,900 GPs, practice nurses and staff were vaccinated against Covid-19 in clinics last Saturday in Galway, Laois and Dublin.

The move was warmly welcomed by GPs, many of whom had grown frustrated at the lack of information around when they would be inoculated.  

Further mass vaccination clinics for GPs and their staff will commence on 25th January in up to five locations nationally, with details to be released shortly.  Some 3,500 doses are available for administration at these clinics.

Dr McCauley expects that almost all GPs and practice staff will have received the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of February “at the latest”.

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