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RCPI annual conference puts focus on global vaccination

Director of Education and Academic Programmes, RCPI, Dr Sinéad Murphy, outlines what attendees can expect from the College’s upcoming St Luke’s Symposium

We are delighted to announce details on the 2021 St Luke’s Symposium – the RCPI’s annual conference, which
takes place on 14 and 15 October next. The theme for this year’s Symposium is global vaccination. We have gathered some of the world’s leading experts on vaccination, looking at this topical and crucial issue from a wide range of perspectives, to create a lively and thought-provoking programme of events. It seems appropriate, as we still grapple with this pandemic, to assess where we are in terms of Covid-19 and vaccination against it.

The St Luke’s Symposium 2021 is an opportunity to hear from leading experts, such as Sir Andrew Pollard, the Chief Investigator on the University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trials; Dr Susan Hopkins, the Deputy Director of Public Health England; Prof Karina Butler the Chair of the national immunisation advisory committee (NIAC); and Prof Pete Lunn (PhD), the founder and head of the behavioural research unit at the Economic and Social Research Institute and many other experts.

Our members and fellows from around the globe will also be contributing updates on Covid-19 and vaccination rates in various regions including Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.

The Symposium kicks off with an assessment from our experts about the current stage of the pandemic and what the evidence tells us. What does the evidence tell us about whether we can vaccinate the world in a fair and equitable way. Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Prof Chris Fitpatrick, who moved from his day job in the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital to the vaccination centre in Citywest in Dubin this year to join the national vaccination team, will reflect on this experience and discuss his views on the issues we are still facing.

Prof David Weakliam, Global Health Programme Director, HSE, will tease out the international issues together with other speakers to be announced shortly. From there the Symposium will focus on the impact of the Covid-19 vaccines, asking whether they are the ‘Holy Grail’. Prof Mary Keogan, Consultant Immunologist at Beaumont Hospital and incoming Dean of the RCPI Faculty of Pathology, looks at the issues still facing individuals who face challenges in terms of the levels of protection they will achieve through vaccination.

NIAC

Dr Cliona Murphy, Chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and a Consultant Obstetrician at the Coombe Hospital, has led the campaign in Ireland to vaccinate pregnant women. As a member of NIAC, Dr Murphy worked with the committee to assess the emerging evidence for this population to develop national guidance and
advice to support women to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies. Dr Murphy will also speak at the public talk during this year’s Symposium, to further discuss pregnancy and the Covid-19 vaccine.

Prof Karina Butler, Chair of NIAC and a Consultant Paediatrician and Specialist in Infectious Diseases, has become a familiar and much trusted figure to us all over the past year as she led the expert advisory body’s work to advise the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and the Department of Health on the safety of the new vaccines and their use in the State’s biggest ever mass vaccination programme.

Since November 2020, the NIAC has issued 24 sets of comprehensive recommendations to the Chief Medical Officer on issues regarding the Covid-19 vaccination programme including priority groups for vaccination, vaccine safety, pregnancy, children and adolescents, and most recently booster vaccinations — each reflecting the most up to date scientific evidence. Prof Butler will share her expertise during the Symposium and the public meeting is an opportunity to pose questions and seek answers on these issues.

Public meeting

The public meeting will also examine the impact of Covid-19 on our older population. Prof Sean Kennelly, Consultant Physician in Geriatric and Stroke Medicine and Director of the tertiary referral multidisciplinary memory service in Tallaght University Hospital will talk about the importance and challenges of vaccination for older people.

And as people return to offices, Dr Deirdre Gleeson, Specialist in Occupational Health Medicine, will discuss the challenges that may bring for the wider population. She will also provide helpful tips and suggestions about how best to manage this transition in the months ahead. Dr Eoghan de Barra, Consultant Immunologist at Beaumont Hospital, will discuss various medically vulnerable patient groups and how the vaccine may not be the solution for such patients.

Living with the virus

On Friday, we will look to the future and consider how we can learn to live with this new virus and what that will mean for our daily lives and for the future of healthcare. Dr Susan Hopkins will share her knowledge and experience of antigen testing which has been deployed extensively in the UK, discussing the evidence and their current and future role.

Another familiar face is Prof Pete Lunn who has shared his insights into how people respond in terms of their behaviour as we cope with unprecedented challenges.

He will describe some of the behavioural science behind Ireland’s high level of Covid-19 vaccine uptake and present data on trends in support for the vaccine and reasons for hesitancy, drawing lessons for future public health campaigns.

This programme has been developed with the input from all of the Faculties and Institutes at the RCPI from public health, occupational health medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, and medicine to pathology, to ensure it will be of universal appeal to our trainees, members and fellows, as well as allied healthcare professionals and the public through the public talk.

This will be a virtual event again this year, but with speakers and panel discussions coming live from our home at No 6 Kildare Street. We look forward to meeting you all then.

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