A DUBLIN hospital chief has issued an apology after it emerged doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were given to several relatives of staff members.
Professor Michael O’Connell, who is the master of the Coombe maternity hospital, told the Irish Times he “deeply regrets” that 16 family members of the hospital's staff were administered the vaccine from leftover doses – including two of his own children.
Frontline healthcare workers are meant to be prioritised for the jab under the State’s vaccine allocation strategy, along with staff and residents at nursing homes across Ireland.
More than 1,100 doses were given to frontline healthcare staff, GPs and local community health workers at Coombe maternity hospital.
According to Prof O’Connell, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, the additional vaccines were given staff family members to ensure 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.”
While nine of the 16 relatives vaccinated were over the age of 70, seven were of varying age, including Professor O’Connell’s sons.
One is thought to be of college-going age and works in a part-time basis at a private medical practice. The other also workers on an unpaid basis at another hospital.
The surplus came about because the hospital was able to produce 120 addition shots of the vaccine from its supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
The hospital also claimed that the HSE’s vaccination booking system did not go live in time for the jabs to be handed out to additional healthcare staff either.
“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.
Despite the apology, one staff member told the Irish Times: “It’s disgraceful that the master of the hospital arranged for his children to get the vaccine.”
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is now seeking an explanation into the incident from the chairman of the hospital’s board.
“Trust in the vaccine programme is of critical importance and what happened should not have happened,” he 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.”