Business of Joint Committee

There are no apologies. We have our full membership present. We have one item of committee business to be addressed before I call our witness, Dr. Ronan Glynn, to present to us. I take it that the draft minutes of our private and public meetings of last Thursday, 8 April, are agreed and that there are no matters arising. Is that agreed? Agreed.

May I raise an issue, please?

Please, go ahead.

I wish to raise the issue of the decision of the national immunisation advisory committee, NIAC, yesterday regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. Obviously, this is a matter for NIAC in terms of the public health measure and putting safety first. I have no problem with that. It is more the implications of the decision. We need to hear from the HSE and NIAC next week that they have a plan to mitigate this decision because we do not want this to interrupt in any way the roll-out. We know how important the vaccine roll-out will be. We will deal with this issue in this session with the National Public Health Emergency Team, NPHET, in the context of the impact the roll-out will have on allowing us to make decisions on reopening, outdoor dining and other outdoor activities, so this is very important. I am not satisfied at all with the responses we have got from the Minister for Health in the Dáil in recent weeks. He is not presenting a plan. He is not presenting timeframes or targets. We have the HSE in next week and we have NIAC, and they need to come in with a plan. I am asking in advance of this hearing next week that we write to them and ask them for a very detailed note and a plan that assures us that we can mitigate this because it is obviously a serious development. When we have them in next week, they need to come in with a plan and give it to us in advance of the hearing.

Sound. I do not want to open a debate on this. I see Senator Conway has his hand up but I ask him-----

I endorse Deputy Cullinane's proposal in the first instance. Also, since NIAC and, in particular, the HSE are coming in, I am very concerned about the roll-out of the HPV vaccine. We need to get an update on that as well and on whether there is any proposal to have a catch-up programme, given the fact that schools have been closed now for a significant period of the past 12 months. I have dealt with a couple of parents who are trying to get their children the HPV vaccine and they are being told it will cost them something in the region of €500. This catch-up programme was run successfully in 2018 and we need another one, so perhaps the HSE and NIAC could be alerted to the need to come in and to give us an update on that as well. I would appreciate that.

I think there is general agreement on that. I know Deputy Shortall has her hand up and-----

I call Deputy Shortall.

Is it not the purpose of the private meeting this afternoon to discuss all these other issues?

Yes, but I-----

The NPHET representatives are waiting. May we start the meeting?

Hang on a second. The matter was raised and I was quite entitled to come in as well, so I resent that comment.

Deputy Durkan, is this on the same issue?

A word of caution: I am worried we will run down a road of chasing the virus. The latter is something over which neither we nor the HSE have any control. It is all down to one thing: supply. If the companies do not supply or are not capable of supplying enough vaccines or if there is a safety issue involved, what will we do? Will we superimpose ourselves between the HSE and the general public and set ourselves up as the people to go to in the case of healthcare? If something goes wrong and there is a health issue and an inquiry into it, are we going to take responsibility for that? This is an area we need to be very careful about. It is all very fine to criticise the Minister and so on, and I am sure he is well able to look after himself, but we are not the experts in this area-----

No, and-----

-----and we should not pretend to be.

As has been pointed out, we can raise this at our private meeting. NIAC and the HSE are coming before us. I want to move on and introduce our witnesses.