Vaccination Programme

Questions (749)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

749. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Health the reason pharmacists were not included with general practitioners when they were being vaccinated recently given their ongoing interactions with the public throughout the pandemic period and the fact that they could be and probably will be relied upon to help in vaccinating the community in the near future when the full roll-out of vaccines begins in earnest. [6500/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

Vaccine allocation is a matter for my Department and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus.

The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.

The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will begin this month.

All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

Frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) in direct patient contact roles will be vaccinated in Group 2. This includes HCWs working in public, private, and voluntary settings. Other HCWs, not in direct patient contact, will be vaccinated in Group 4.

Vaccination Programme

Question No. 751 answered with Question No. 709.

Questions (750, 775)

Richard Bruton

Question:

750. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health the vaccination category Dublin Fire Brigade paramedics are in; and when vaccinations are likely to be scheduled. [6524/21]

View answer

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

775. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health the position of firefighters and paramedics in the vaccination roll-out scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6628/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 750 and 775 together.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and my Department, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

Vaccine allocation is a matter for my Department and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus.

The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.

The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will begin this month.

All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

Frontline healthcare workers (HCWs) in direct patient contact roles will be vaccinated in Group 2. This includes HCWs working in public, private, and voluntary settings. Other HCWs, not in direct patient contact, will be vaccinated in Group 4.

The HSE has published a document on the sequencing of COVID-19 vaccination of frontline healthcare workers, which provides more detail. It is available at the following link:

https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/news/newsfeatures/covid19-updates/covid-19-vaccine-materials/sequencing-of-covid-19-vaccination-of-frontline-healthcare-workers.pdf

Question No. 751 answered with Question No. 709.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (752)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

752. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Health if accompanying a child for parental access outside of Ireland is deemed essential travel; if self-quarantine at home on return to Ireland will be sufficient; if not, if mandatory quarantine in a hotel will be required under the proposed travel restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6551/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I signed new regulations titled S.I. No. 29 of 2021 Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No 10) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 on Friday 29 January, which detail reasonable excuses for travel to an airport or port for purpose of leaving the State.

This list includes:

- if the person is a parent or guardian of a child, or a person having a right of access to a child, to give effect to arrangements for access to the child by the person, or another person who is -

(I) a parent or guardian of the child, or

(II) a person having a right of access to the child,

where the person is not ordinarily resident in the State, to leave the State.

Under the SI No. 44/2021 arriving passengers (with a limited list of exemptions) are required to home quarantine for 14 days at the address given on their Passenger Locator Form. A second ‘non-detected’ PCR test result taken no less than 5 days after arrival can end the quarantine period. However certain countries are designated as having a variant of concern (currently Brazil & South Africa) and arrivals from these countries do not have the option to end quarantine early.

Close consideration is continuously given to all travel measures and intending travellers should ensure that they are familiar with all Irish public health measures before travelling to Ireland.

Health Promotion

Questions (753)

Colm Burke

Question:

753. Deputy Colm Burke asked the Minister for Health if his Department will launch a vitamin D campaign to highlight the benefits of vitamin D, particularly in the context of Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6553/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Deputy is advised that the existing guidance on vitamin D was updated in November 2020 and advises that adults aged 65 and older to take a 15 microgram (600 IU) daily supplement for bone and muscle health.

An evidence synthesis paper on vitamin D and COVID-19 prepared for NPHET was discussed at its meeting of January 28. The NPHET agreed that efforts should be made to increase awareness of existing guidance; and that adults spending increased time indoors or are housebound or in long-term residential care or have dark skin pigmentation are also recommended to take a daily vitamin D supplement.

These recommendations for the use of vitamin D are being incorporated into wider messaging, and additionally are being communicated across the health service, including nursing homes and social care settings as necessary.

There is currently no plan for a campaign providing vitamin D supplements to certain groups. The NPHET agreed that at present there is insufficient high-quality evidence with respect to vitamin D in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, and noted that ongoing developments, particularly Randomised Control Trials, in this area be monitored by the NPHET with guidance reviewed accordingly.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (754)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

754. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Health if it will be ensured that the residents at the 24-hour high dependency unit at St. Columbcille Village, Clonmany, County Donegal, receive the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible; and his views on whether such older persons in 24-hour care should not have been left behind in the first round of vaccines. [6565/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Nursing Homes Support Scheme

Questions (755)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

755. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Health when the necessary funds will be released in respect of a fair deal application in the case of a person (details supplied) who has been approved under the scheme but is awaiting release of funds; if this application can be expedited bearing in mind the care requirements of the applicants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6568/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is an operational matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Medical Records

Questions (756)

Robert Troy

Question:

756. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Health the way in which a person can access medical records from St. Joseph's Hospital, Coole, County Westmeath. [6569/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I have asked the Health Service Executive to examine the issue raised and respond to the Deputy directly.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (757)

James O'Connor

Question:

757. Deputy James O'Connor asked the Minister for Health the logistics for those who do not have a general practitioner to avail of the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6570/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly.

Vaccination Programme

Questions (758)

Mick Barry

Question:

758. Deputy Mick Barry asked the Minister for Health if any Covid-19 vaccines have been provided to employees of pharmaceutical companies in their workplaces or elsewhere as part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6573/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy sets out a provisional list of groups for vaccination. The Strategy was developed by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and the Department of Health, endorsed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), and approved by Government on 8 December 2020.

Vaccine allocation is a matter for the Department of Health and further information is available here: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/39038-provisional-vaccine-allocation-groups/.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is the responsibility of the HSE.

The aim of the COVID-19 vaccination programme is to ensure, over time, that vaccine will become available to vaccinate all of those for whom the vaccine is indicated. Given that there will be initially limited vaccines available, it will take some time for all to receive those vaccines and that has necessitated an allocation strategy to ensure that those most at risk of death and serious illness receive the vaccine first.

The priority is to first vaccinate and protect directly the most vulnerable amongst us, that is, those most likely to have a poor outcome if they contract the virus. The priority is to directly use vaccines to save lives and reduce serious illness, hence the focus on the over 65 year old cohort in long term residential care facilities, and healthcare workers in frontline services often caring for the most vulnerable.

The next group to be vaccinated are those aged 70 and older in the following order: 85 and older, 80-84, 75-79, and 70-74. Vaccination of this group will begin this month.

All of the groups will be covered as further vaccine supplies become available and the immunisation programme is rolled out nationally.

The evidence will be kept under review and the allocation groups may be updated, where necessary, in light of new evidence.

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

HSE Waiting Lists

Questions (759)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

759. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the status of an appointment for a person (details supplied); if the case will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6574/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for Government, Our Shared Future, recognises the need to improve services for both children and adults with disabilities through better implementation and by working together across Government in a better way.

The Government commits to prioritising early diagnosis and access to services for children and ensuring that the most effective interventions are provided for each child, to guarantee the best outcomes.

As this is a service matter I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (760, 854)

Richard Bruton

Question:

760. Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Health if there are guidelines for the type of masks which ought to be used in different settings; and if the possibility of the design of masks with a see-through panel would have advantages in allowing a more congenial form of protection. [6576/21]

View answer

Claire Kerrane

Question:

854. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Health if there are updated guidelines on the use of clear face masks and plastic face shields for those who are deaf or hard of hearing and who rely on lip reading to communicate particularly in relation to classroom and workplace settings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6977/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 760 and 854 together.

The public health advice relating to COVID-19 is kept under continuous review by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), by my Department and the Government. The NPHET reviews international developments as a component of their overall examination of the evolving epidemiology of Covid-19 and are informed by the international scientific evidence, and guidance by international bodies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). WHO and ECDC guidance is formulated in the context of considered appraisal of the international experience and accumulating scientific evidence in relation to COVID-19.

It is important to emphasise that the wearing of face coverings is an additional hygiene measure and should not take the place of good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and other personal protective public health measures. Face coverings should be used properly, in line with the guidance to wash hands before putting them on and after taking them off.

As you will be aware, face coverings are mandatory on public transport, including in taxis, as well as in bus and rail stations and in shops and other retail outlets, including in post offices, banks and credit unions. They are also mandatory in other indoor public spaces such as libraries, cinemas, theatres and museums. It is mandatory for employees in customer facing roles in food and beverage premises (consumption on the premises) to wear a face covering.

The use of face coverings by people is recommended in situations where physical distancing may not be possible, such as in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation. It is also recommended to wear a face covering when visiting the homes of those who are over 70 years of age or who are medically vulnerable. You should also wear a face covering on your way to and from your table in restaurants.

Face coverings are not recommended for anyone who:

- has trouble breathing

- is unconscious or incapacitated

- is unable to remove it without help

- has special needs and who may feel upset or very uncomfortable wearing them

- needs to communicate with someone who has learning difficulties, is hard of hearing or deaf

In these cases, if the person can wear a visor, it will give them some protection. But these are the only times when you should wear a visor. Cloth face coverings are a better way to protect yourself from COVID-19.

The current advice in relation to face coverings is available at https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/face-masks-disposable-gloves.html and http://www.gov.ie/facecoverings/.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has published guidance on the use of face coverings by the general public, including information on the different types of face coverings, which is available here:- https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/infectionpreventionandcontrolguidance/ppe/useoffacemasksbythegeneralpublic/Guidance%20on%20use%20of%20face%20masks%20by%20the%20general%20public.pdf

The HPSC has also published a Brief Evidence Summary on the efficacy of visors compared with masks in the prevention of transmission of COVID-19 in non-healthcare settings, which is available here:- https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/infectionpreventionandcontrolguidance/ppe/useoffacemasksbythegeneralpublic/Current%20evidence%20on%20the%20use%20of%20face%20coverings.pdf

The relevant Regulations in relation to face coverings which remain in place until 9 June, 2021 can be found at:

https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/1f150-view-statutory-instruments-related-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Vaccination Programme

Questions (761)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

761. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Health if there will be a difference in the way patients discharged from public hospitals to nursing homes are considered in terms of the vaccination programme. [6579/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Nursing Staff

Questions (762)

Cathal Crowe

Question:

762. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Health the number of nurses employed as agency staff who are operating between two or more public nursing homes. [6580/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond directly to the Deputy, as soon as possible.

Assisted Human Reproduction

Questions (763)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

763. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the details of a scheme (details supplied); the criteria for same; the eligibility criteria for the scheme; the waiting list for same; the hospitals in which the scheme is being operated; the way in which to obtain a referral; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6581/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy will be aware, a commitment to introduce the model of care for infertility, which was developed by officials in my Department in conjunction with the HSE’s National Women & Infants Health Programme, is included in the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”. This model of care will ensure that infertility issues will be addressed through the public health system at the lowest level of clinical intervention necessary. It will comprise three stages, starting in primary care (i.e., GPs) and extending into secondary care (i.e., Regional Fertility Hubs) and then, where necessary, tertiary care (i.e., IVF and other advanced assisted human reproduction (AHR) treatments). Structured referral pathways will be put in place and patients will be referred onwards for further investigations or treatment as required and as clinically appropriate. It is intended that, in line with available resources, this model of care for infertility will be rolled out on a phased basis over the course of the coming years.

Phase One of the roll-out of the model of care has commenced and involves the establishment, at secondary care level, of Regional Fertility Hubs in maternity networks. which will facilitate the management of a significant proportion of patients presenting with infertility issues. Funding of €2m was provided to the HSE to commence Phase One of the roll-out of the model of care in 2020. This was utilised specifically in respect of the development of the first four Regional Fertility Hubs – namely, Cork Maternity University Hospital, the Rotunda Hospital, the National Maternity Hospital and the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital.

Additional funding of just over €1m is being made available to enable the continuation of Phase One of the roll-out in 2021, including through the setting-up of the final two Regional Fertility Hubs, to be located in Galway and Limerick.

The roll out of Phase One has been slowed due to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic by the health service broadly and its impact upon the provision of elective health services, including fertility services.

Phase Two of the roll-out will see the introduction of tertiary infertility services, including IVF, in the public health system. Phase Two will not commence until such time as infertility services at secondary level have been developed across the country and the AHR legislation is commenced. Drafting of the AHR legislation is ongoing, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General.

Overall, the implementation of the model of care will help to ensure the provision of safe, effective and accessible infertility services at all levels of the public health system as part of the full range of services available in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Assisted Human Reproduction

Questions (764)

Niamh Smyth

Question:

764. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Health the way in which private sector IVF is regulated; the plans he has in place in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6582/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As the Deputy will be aware, currently there is no specific legislation in Ireland governing assisted human reproduction (AHR). There is limited existing regulation relating to the use of gametes and embryos.

In 2006 the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) was designated as the competent authority for SI No. 158 of 2006 (Quality and Safety of Human Tissues and Cells) Regulations, which governs the quality and safety standards in the donation, procurement, testing, processing, preservation, storage and distribution of human tissues and cells, including gametes and embryos. These regulations empower the HPRA to authorise and monitor tissue establishments, which include some fertility clinics.

Of further relevance, the Children and Family Relationships (CFR) Act 2015 reforms and updates family law to address the needs of children living in diverse family types. Parts 2 and 3 of that Act are the responsibility of the Minister for Health. These Parts of the CFR Act regulate aspects of AHR involving donated gametes and embryos and are specifically concerned with parentage rules for children born through donor assisted human reproduction (DAHR) procedures, obligations applying to facilities providing such procedures and the establishment of the National Donor-Conceived Person Register.

Accordingly, the drafting of a bill on AHR and associated areas of research, based on the published General Scheme of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, was approved by Government. This comprehensive and far-reaching piece of legislation encompasses the regulation, for the first time, of a wide range of practices, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

The General Scheme also provides for the establishment of an independent regulatory authority for AHR, and a number of the main envisaged functions of this body relate to the licensing of AHR treatment providers and ensuring compliance with the provisions of the legislation.

The drafting of the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill is ongoing by my officials, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General. The publication of the AHR Bill is a priority for my Department and the Government, and a commitment to enact this legislation is included in the Programme for Government, “Our Shared Future”.

Overall, the provisions outlined within the General Scheme will ensure that AHR practices and related areas of research are conducted in a more consistent and standardised way and with the necessary oversight. The aim of the AHR legislation is to promote and ensure the health and safety of parents and others involved in the process while, most importantly, consideration of the welfare and best interests of children born as a result of AHR is the key principle underpinning all legislative measures in this area.

Covid-19 Pandemic

Questions (765)

Paul McAuliffe

Question:

765. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Health his plans for introducing rapid antigen testing at hospitals for outpatients. [6583/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the deputy directly, as soon as possible.

Hospital Car Parks

Questions (766)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

766. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Health the status of plans to implement the recommendations made in the HSE review into hospital car parking charges published at the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6595/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

The Programme for Government makes a commitment to introduce a cap on the maximum daily charge for patients and visitors at all public hospitals where possible, and to introduce flexible passes in all public hospitals for patients and their families.

My Department and the HSE are currently engaging on this issue.

Hospital Car Parks

Questions (767)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Question:

767. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Health the revenue collected from car parking charges at the RCSI Hospital Group of hospitals in 2019, by each hospital in the group; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6596/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

As this is a service matter, I have asked the Health Service Executive to respond to the Deputy directly as soon as possible.