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Saolta Group launch report on rollout of Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

The Saolta University Health Care Group is pleased to officially launch an in-depth look back report on the rollout of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme across the West and Northwest.

The 80-page report details the challenges, progress and successes of the programme, from rapidly setting up vaccination centres and satellite centres, ensuring a constant vaccine supply chain and reacting to peaks and sudden troughs of demand including vaccinating a peak of 42,000 people per week at the height of the programme.

Ireland’s vaccination programme began on 29 December 2020 with the initial rollout focusing on healthcare workers in frontline services and the 65 and older cohort in long term residential care facilities.

In rolling out the vaccination programme in the West and Northwest, an integrated Steering Group was rapidly established, with membership from Saolta, Community Healthcare West, Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo, HSE Emergency Planning, HSE Estates, Public Health and the National Ambulance Service (NAS). The Steering Group would go on to meet weekly or fortnightly until the point of transfer in May 2022. 

The programme, which consisted of over 650 staff at its peak, was to oversee the vaccination of people from the age of 5 upwards in the Covid Vaccination Centres (CVCs), but also in their homes (where housebound), residential care facilities, prisons, acute and community settings, and third level institutions. It worked with partner health organisations, voluntary and other agencies.

Responsibility for the regional vaccination programme was transferred from Saolta to HSE Community Healthcare organisations in the West and Northwest in May 2022.  At the point of transfer, the Saolta-governed programme had administered 750,000 vaccinations, of which 703,000 had been given in the CVCs. Staff worked around the clock to provide a safe and quality service that everybody involved should be proud of.

Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta Group welcomed the report, adding: “From the very start of the COVID vaccination programme we set ourselves two aims. The first was to ensure that no vaccine was wasted. The second was to ensure that the pace at which we delivered the vaccine would only be limited by the availability of the vaccine itself. Despite all of the challenges and setbacks along the way, we consistently achieved both of these aims.”

He described the report as a timely reminder of the need to stay up to date with vaccines.

“It is a testament to the success of the vaccination programme that life has returned to normal, however, I urge you all not be become complacent. We can do our part to protect against any future surge in COVID or influenza by staying up to date with our vaccines. This report is a timely reminder than vaccines make a difference,” he added.

Paul Hooton, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery and Vaccination Programme Lead for the Saolta Group also praised the report.

“I was the Vaccination Lead for the Regional Vaccination Programme in the West and Northwest during 2022-2023. I witnessed incredible efforts, by both staff and members of the public, to engage with the programme and to contribute to Ireland's uptake rate of circa. 96% of the population receiving full primary vaccination. COVID-19 touched the lives of everyone globally. It's easy to forget the enormous impact it had on all people from all walks of life.

“I continue to be incredibly proud of the work carried out by all of those involved - the HSE staff, the National Ambulance Service, Defence Forces, Local Authorities, Civil Defence, An Garda Síochána, the Fire Service, voluntary supports and many others,” he added.

Dr Áine McNamara, Area Director of Public Health HSE West and North West welcomed the report and urged the public to get their winter booster vaccines for flu and COVID-19 where recommended.

Staying up-to-date with your vaccines is a safe and effective way of avoiding illness. It also ensures you help protect the most vulnerable in our communities. We know that vaccines save lives and I urge you all to shield yourself, your family and your community by getting your vaccinations,” she added

Cllr Donagh Killilea, Chairman of the Regional Health Forum officially launched the report at the September meeting of the forum.

“I warmly welcome the publication of this Saolta report, which goes a long way to capturing the challenges, the progress and successes of the programme. The inclusion of personal stories and anecdotes from staff and members of the public, recorded at the time, gives rich depth to the story and provides real insight as to how integrated working in the HSE can bring significant benefits to our region, providing universal access and the highest levels of service,” he added.

John Fitzmaurice, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare West said: “I welcome the publication of this look back report. It is important that we don’t lose sight of the learnings in this report. The success of the vaccination programme allowed us to live our lives as we choose and it’s vital that we don’t take that for granted. To do so would unfortunately ensure that the vaccination programme becomes a victim of its own success.”

Dermot Monaghan, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo said: “CH CDLMS was delighted to take over the delivery of the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme in the five counties, as an established and excellently run programme by Saolta. I’d like to pay tribute to the staff of Saolta for their work and to the staff of CH CDLMS who worked in partnership with Saolta in the initial vaccine roll out and who now continue to deliver the programme so diligently.”

The full report is available to view here:

Photo caption
Paul Hooton, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Saolta University Health Care Group; Cllr Donagh Killilea, Chairman of the Regional Health Forum and Tony Canavan, CEO, Saolta University Health Care Group.

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