Healthcare workers and long-term care residents must continue to be the absolute first priority groups for vaccination, the INMO has warned.
The government’s plan for vaccination priority sees elderly care residents and frontline healthcare workers receive the vaccine first.
This is followed by those over 70, along with other healthcare workers who are not in direct patient contact.
This plan was agreed by government in mid-December to relieve pressure on health service staffing, and in recognition of the disproportionate risks healthcare workers face from the virus.
In the last two weeks for which data is available, 5,019 healthcare workers tested positive for the virus. Nearly a quarter of those cases (23%) were among nurses and midwives.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
“Let me be crystal clear. INMO members have cooperated with redeployment and worked dutifully under increased risks, all in the interest of patient safety. To continue this approach healthcare workers must receive the vaccine as a priority.
“There is a vaccination plan. It is agreed, it is clear, and the government should stick to it.
“Tens of thousands of healthcare workers have caught this virus. They did so because – even in the times of most extreme pressure – they have turned up to work and provided care. This includes students and interns, who have taken great risks on no or low pay.
“It would be frankly obscene if other groups were being vaccinated while healthcare workers and the most vulnerable elderly go without. The only thing delaying vaccines for healthcare workers and the elderly should be supply.
“Rumours that other groups will be placed ahead of healthcare workers for vaccination are deeply unhelpful to frontline staff. The government should make clear that it is holding firm and sticking to the plan.”