Fórsa and other health unions have urged the HSE to prioritise healthcare workers for a booster vaccine, amid reports that a growing number of them are being infected with Covid-19. The unions have been assured by the HSE that there are currently no supply issues with vaccines.
In a joint letter to the HSE on 20th October, unions representing healthcare staff expressed concern that the provision of booster vaccines for health staff was not forthcoming, despite the extension of booster vaccines to people aged over 60.
The letter stated: “We find it inexplicable that healthcare workers who are working on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19 and within the context of growing community and hospital transmission, are not being offered the option of a booster vaccine.”
We’re entering the critical winter period, nothing can be left to chance.
It added that frontline staff were among the first to receive the vaccine in early 2021 and that the six month gap for boosters has now expired. Despite the high level of vaccinations amongst this cohort, breakthrough infection is now occurring, it argued.
Dr Cillian De Gascun, a leading virologist and a member of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), said this week that the Government could keep the hospitals safer this winter by giving healthcare workers a booster Covid-19 vaccine but said it’s not required from a scientific basis.
De Gascun said: “You could make a justifiable policy-based decision that in order to maintain or protect the healthcare system over the course of the winter that it would be prudent to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers.”
HSE chief executive Paul Reid has warned that the number of health workers out sick could soon rise to 2,000.
Unions highlighted how the health system remains under severe and growing pressure, with severe overcrowding occurring in many acute hospitals, and pointed to the HSE’s obligations under the Biological Agents Directive, enacted in November 2021, which says available vaccines should be utilised to help protect workers.
Fórsa official Chris Cully said the current risk to healthcare workers was simply too great.
“Immediate health and safety steps are needed by the HSE to address this situation. We’ve sought that the HSE immediately pursues the issue with the relevant agencies to ensure that healthcare workers are protected. We’re entering the critical winter period, nothing can be left to chance,” she said.
Representing over 30,000 health workers including health and social care professionals, clerical, administrative, management and technical staff. We consider it one of the many strengths of the union that our members are central to the delivery the full array of health and welfare services in Ireland. To find out more about the range of grades represented, and where they operate within those services, visit our map “At the heart of Health and Welfare.”