Many Irish people may be frustrated at the length of time they are waiting to get their Covid vaccine, but that’s not where the delays end. Gript can reveal that there are extensive – and inexplicable – delays in approving qualified people to administer the vaccine to the public, with one Pharmacist’s application to become an approved Covid vaccinator taking a full month from start to finish.
“Claire”, a pharmacist based in the south west of the country, told Gript that she has been administering the influenza vaccine to Irish patients for a number of years. In order to become approved to administer the flu vaccine to the public, a pharmacist must undertake a number of courses. In Claire’s case, she had completed her most recent course in how to administer the flu vaccine in the third quarter of 2020, within the past six months:
In early February, Claire applied to the HSE to become an approved Covid vaccinator. “My parents are getting older”, she told Gript, “and I’m very conscious that for them, and many people like them, they want the vaccine as soon as possible so that they can get back to some sort of normal life, and feel safer again”. “I thought, as well, that given that I have these skills, and having administered vaccines for years, it would be straightforward”.
Claire initially applied using the HSE email advertised for people who were qualified to become vaccinators. A few days later, she got a reply, asking her to fill out an application form for CPL healthcare, a company who are overseeing the recruitment campaign for vaccinators.
The application form required, amongst other things, three references from past employers, Claire’s birth certificate, and marriage certificate, verification of address, and security clearances (though only if applicable, in the latter case, mercifully).
Having submitted her application form, Claire was then told that she would have to undergo Garda vetting in order to become a vaccinator.
“That was a bit of a shock”, she says. “I have no objection to being vetted by the Gardai, and no reason to fear such vetting, but I did wonder how it could be considered necessary. I am an experienced pharmacist who has been working with the exact same people and same demographic that I was proposing to vaccinate for Covid. What were the Gardai going to reveal about me that would make me qualified to vaccinate for the flu, but not qualified to vaccinate for Covid?”
Nonetheless, Claire completed her Garda vetting.
She then received an email, outlining her “training” for the position:
“That made some sense”, Claire says. “It makes sense that they wanted to ascertain my level of pre-existing training. My assumption was, having done this for years, that it wouldn’t take long in my case, maybe a phone call, and maybe verification from an employer”.
But that’s not how it turned out.
“First of all, the process was an absolute nightmare. They wanted to do all the training online, but the portal didn’t work, and I had to spend a full week emailing back and forth with their tech team just to access it.
Second, it was very quickly apparent that they didn’t care about my previous experience at all. I was required to take every single course, as if I was a complete beginner. Up to and including courses on how to wash my hands. What’s worse is that the training was basically the exact same training as in the refresher course I took for the flu vaccine just months earlier.”
Once Claire had completed the training – which involved several courses over several weeks, she was then required to submit certificates manually back to CPL. As of today’s date, she still has not been approved as a vaccinator.
“This winter alone, I must have vaccinated several hundred people for influenza”, she notes. “I can tell you hand on heart that the process is virtually identical.”
Claire contacted Gript because she feels her experience demonstrates a real problem with the vaccine roll-out in Ireland. “The UK has vaccinated nearly half the country and we still haven’t laced our shoes”, she says. “Part of that is because of things like this. Even if we had the vaccines, we don’t have the people to administer them, because to be approved to administer them, you have to jump through ridiculous hoops”.
When this writer tweeted about this story last night, several people replied to say that they were aware of people with similar experiences to Claire’s:
Loads of examples. Registered working hse nurses have to take basic courses before being allowed to do agency work. CYA gone mad. Ret'd nurses not allowed vaccinate 80+ w/o garda vetting.
— @sinead_ryan (@sinead_ryan) March 17, 2021
Not exactly confidence-inspiring, is it?