Doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have been given to staff not working on the frontline in a Dublin hospital.

The Irish Times reports that St Vincent’s University Hospital has defended administering the vaccine to members of staff not officially due to receive it until a later date under the Government’s immunisation plan.

The hospital was responding to claims made by intensive care (ICU) staff to The Irish Times that senior staff members — who are not treating patients — were given the vaccine last week before some frontline workers.

One member of ICU staff alleged some senior staff were vaccinated during the first day of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s roll-out, with a number of ICU staff later refused the vaccine that day.

Although all staff then received the vaccine later in the week, the incident was said to have caused great upset among those who had been treating Covid-19 patients for months during the pandemic.

Waste

A spokeswoman for St Vincent’s University Hospital said the HSE had issued an allocation of vaccine doses based on a headcount of staff and frontline workers were given priority.

“Staff, including the CEO, who in the course of their duties may be on wards or in direct contact with patients and staff are then offered the vaccine, followed by all other staff who in a surge may be redeployed to support frontline staff,” she said.

“In certain instances non-frontline staff have received the vaccine to ensure that no vaccine is wasted.”

The spokeswoman said that on the first day of the vaccine’s roll-out, an error in the booking system occurred and the vaccination of some ICU staff had to be deferred as they were not registered.

The hospital hopes to have vaccinated all its 3,035 staff by the end of the week, she said.

You don’t want people who are not on the frontline to be leapfrogging over others at greater risk

Under the Government’s national vaccination plan, frontline healthcare workers and residents and staff of care homes are being prioritised.

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In some instances, people from other groups have been vaccinated so that live supplies are used up, as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be used within five days of being removed from ultra-cold storage.

Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, Professor Karina Butler, said a balance had to be struck in distributing the vaccine and ensuring there was no waste.

“You don’t want people who are not on the frontline to be leapfrogging over others at greater risk,” she said.

However, Prof Butler added that hospitals have to retain some flexibility in the way they allocate supplies and it may also be important for people “in leadership roles” to get vaccinated early to help develop public confidence in the vaccines.