By Cate McCurry and James Ward, PA
A government plan to use general practitioners and pharmacists to administer the Covid-19 vaccine is an opportunity to get ahead of the virus, a GP has said.
On Tuesday, the Cabinet signed off on an agreement with GPs and pharmacists to administer coronavirus vaccines to more than 1.5 million people.
The deal has been widely welcomed and will see GPs and pharmacists paid €60 (£53) for each patient vaccinated.
It is hoped GPs will be able to administer the vaccines in early February, once the AstraZeneca vaccine has been approve by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and supplies have been delivered to Ireland.
Dr Denis McCauley, chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee, said there has been a “concerted effort” to get GPs and the practice teams vaccinated as quickly as possible.
“We’re preparing ourselves to be the main vaccinators,” he said.
“We would see general practices as a core element of the mass vaccination campaign.
“The European Medicines Agency is hopefully going to approve AstraZeneca and then if we get our supply, there will be a significant uplift in the amount of vaccinations given.
“If the supply is there, the GPs will be able to give it at the rate we normally give a vaccination.”
Dr McCauley said GPs recently administered one million flu vaccines over six weeks.
He said the AstraZeneca vaccine is easily stored and will require a limited supervision period.
Face coverings can help to reduce the spread of #coronavirus. They should:
✅ cover the nose & go under the chin
✅ fit snugly against the side of the face
✅ be secured with ties or ear loops
✅ include at least 2 layers of fabric
✅ allow for unrestricted breathing pic.twitter.com/bpmDAHaRmQ
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) January 19, 2021
He hopes the supply will allow GPs and pharmacists to start the vaccination process of the next two priority groups, including the over-70s and the at-risk group.
“They will be contacted, an appointment will be given and we will get them in and get them done,” he added.
“We are aware that people are eager and keen, we’re aware that if they know a GP has the vaccine and they’re not getting it, they will get frustrated and maybe even angry.”
He said GPs and pharmacies could get through as many as 300 vaccinations in a day.
“We have been reacting to the virus all the time, so this is the chance to get ahead of it and we know we can participate in that,” he added.
Dr McCauley said about 90% of GPs have received their first dose of the vaccine.
The deal was also welcomed by Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane.
He said: “I think that’s going to be a game-changer and crucial in terms of the rollout.
“If we can get to a point AstraZeneca is certified and we’re getting more doses in, hopefully over 100,000 a week coming in, the role of GPs and pharmacies will come front and centre.
“We need to make sure that when that is certified (AstraZeneca), that we have some sense of how many doses we can get in really quickly.
“I know from engagement with that company they’ve done a huge amount of advanced manufacturing.
“I think it’s possible to get our hands on huge quantities of that vaccine very quickly.
“Then the question is how quickly can we get the administration of it done.”