In March 2021, ILFA was invited to join an online Stakeholder Briefing meeting for an update on the COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy with Minister Stephen Donnelly, Professor Karina Butler (Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee), HSE staff and other patient organisations. We were grateful to hear the rationale for the prioritisation strategy and to have the opportunity to submit questions to the experts. The meeting was valuable and informative.
The development of effective COVID-19 vaccines in such a short time represents major progress in response to the pandemic. The evolving real world experience of large populations being effectively vaccinated has resulted in a decrease in COVID-19 hospitalisation rates. While this is hugely encouraging and reassuring, we all need to continue to follow public health guidance and adhere to social distancing and hand hygiene measures to ensure we stay safe.
As vaccine supply is currently limited, there is a need to prioritise those groups at greatest risk of illness, hospitalisation and death due to the coronavirus. The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has issued the updated COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Strategy based on evidence and an ethical framework to ensure fairness and equity in deciding who should get the vaccine first.
The plan is to target vulnerable groups considered to be most at risk and keep them safe. Patients aged 16-69 years with severe pulmonary fibrosis are included in Cohort 4 and will receive the vaccine directly after those aged over 70 years. ILFA submitted a question regarding the definition of “severe” pulmonary fibrosis as mentioned in the allocation strategy and highlighted the risk of an acute exacerbation for pulmonary fibrosis patients. We await clarification and will update you when possible.
We also asked if carers/spouses of pulmonary fibrosis patients would be prioritised for the vaccine. At this time, priority is given to pulmonary fibrosis patients and other high risk patients. As the vaccine supply increases, caregivers will be called for vaccinations.
The HSE will be responsible for the implementation of the vaccines (how, when, where). The priority list is under constant review.