On what is World Cancer Day, I extend my solidarity to Ms Lynsey Bennett and express my deep anger at what we saw yesterday - another woman and family failed by the State, another woman who was forced to go to the courts despite assurances that such would never happen again. It is a scandal. The Tánaiste gave a commitment to these women in 2018 and it is time that it was delivered upon. My thoughts are with Ms Bennett and her family today.
D'fhógair an Rialtas inné nach mbeidh an vacsaín AstraZeneca á húsáid orthu sin atá thar 70 bliain d'aois. Cruthaíonn an bhacainn seo dúshlán mór don Rialtas ó thaobh an phlean chun vacasíní a chur ar fáil don phobal. Tá an cuma ar an scéal anois nach bhfuil plean mar is ceart ag an Rialtas maidir le vacsaín a thabhairt dóibh atá thar 70 bliain d'aois. Níl amlíne ar bith ann agus níl a fhios ag dóibh siúd sa phobal atá thar 70 bliain cén uair a bheidh siad ag fáil na vacsaíne nó cén dóigh. Beidh siad ag brath ar dhochtúirí teaghlaigh ach ní bheidh cumas stórála ag cuid mhór dochtúirí teaghlaigh leis an vacsaín a chur i bhfeidhm gan AstraZeneca. An bhfuil ról ag na cógaiseoirí ina leith sin? Tá soiléiriú agus freagraí de dhíth ar an phobal.
Yesterday, it was announced that the Government had taken the decision that the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be used to vaccinate those over 70 years of age. This vaccine was repeatedly described as a game changer and we all hoped that it would be, but yesterday's development presents major challenges for the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines throughout the State, not least because this vaccine is far easier to store and the need to roll out other vaccines to over-70s will present major logistical challenges for GPs, who are expected to roll out the vaccination programme in the community. The Taoiseach acknowledged as much yesterday when he stated that it would mean a change in the operation of the plan and would be a significant logistical challenge. However, the Tánaiste stated that it should not delay the roll-out. I find it difficult to believe how it cannot delay the roll-out in respect of over-70s. Timelines and targets were already thrown out the window with the reduced number of AstraZeneca vaccines coming to the State, and now there seems to be no sense of a plan.
What is proposed in respect of the roll-out of the AstraZeneca vaccine? Who will get it? When will they get it? What is the situation facing over-70s? When will they be vaccinated? What is the new ambition in that regard? We do not know how long it will take to vaccinate over-70s without the AstraZeneca vaccine. There is no sense of a new strategy or timeframe.
People are asking questions. For example, can GPs still be to the fore in administering vaccines that are deemed suitable for over-70s, given the major logistical challenges posed by how those vaccines are stored? Many GPs do not have suitable storage systems. Where will the vaccines be administered? Questions remain for pharmacies. When will pharmacists and their staff be vaccinated, when will they be part of the roll-out and what part will they play?
These are genuine questions that people like my mum, who falls into this category, want answered. They are alarmed at the news and want to be assured that the Government has a plan and what it will mean. They saw the advertisements placed in national media saying that GPs would be in contact with them over the next number of days, but now they are questioning what the plan is. Since the news emerged yesterday, there has been no clarity about how the situation will be managed. When will we see the revised targets and when will we have clarity? Will the Tánaiste answer some of the questions on capacity and the logistics involved in rolling the programme out through GPs? What will be the role of pharmacies? When will over-70s be vaccinated as a result of the Government's decision yesterday?