Politicians in Offaly have said the voluntary nature of vaccinations is a human right
Several councillors in Offaly and the wider region have said that vaccines for Covid-19 should be voluntary and not compulsory during the coming weeks.
All the councillors, when speaking to the Midland Tribune this week, said there should be no compulsion on people and freedom of choice remains very important.
“It has to be voluntary,” stated Cllr Michael Smith, “as that is an important principle of any democracy; but I also think that there will have to be a concerted effort by the HSE and the Government to ensure that as many people as possible are vaccinated in as quick and efficient a manner as possible.”
Cllr Smith said the scientists had worked wonders in realising the vaccine in record time. “The most brilliant scientific minds in the world have come up trumps and delivered vaccines in record times. For that we have to be very thankful.”
The Tribune also asked the Councillors if they felt the vaccine is being rolled out quickly enough. Some countries, such as France, are being criticised by their citizens for not rolling out the vaccine swiftly enough, whereas Britain and the US are rolling out their vaccines at a faster rate than all EU countries.
“Well, you can never roll it out fast enough,” commented Cllr Smith. “I think the most important thing is to get it right. It is a huge logistical challenge, a massive undertaking, which must be properly done. I think that over time, as the weeks pass, the roll out will be sped up.” He said the vaccine arrived in Nenagh Hospital this week for the frontline workers and patients there; and started to be distributed as well across North Tipperary nursing homes.
Cllr Smith spoke briefly about the mental health impact of repeated Lockdowns and the extraordinary restrictions. “Locally, in the Roscrea area and in North Tipperary, what I am regularly hearing from people is the loneliness of living during Lockdowns. It's especially hard on the elderly, some of whom do feel trapped in their homes, who deeply miss the social interactions, who deeply miss social things like attending mass. They have steadfastly abided by the rules but loneliness is a problem.
“But it's very difficult for everyone, young and old. The long, dark nights and the cold at the moment are making it worse.”
He urged people to regularly telephone their elderly relatives and maintain as much contact as possible. “A simple phone call can be so important.”
Cllr Eamon Dooley said he didn't think the vaccines should be compulsory for people to take, “except in the matter of people using public transport or using air travel.”
He didn't feel critical about the speed of distribution and administration. “I wouldn't feel concerned about the rollout speed in Ireland at the moment. It should also be borne in mind that in terms of case numbers and deaths the US and Britain are in a far worse position than Ireland.”
Cllr Ger Darcy agreed. “There is no sense in trying to keep up with the British!” he said. “The administration of the vaccine is a massive undertaking and it has to be propely done.” He too agreed that taking it should be voluntary.
Deputy Anne Rabbitte also believed it should be voluntary. “We are no slower than the rest of Europe. We are part of an excellent team, the European team. Besides, the roll out has only just started and already a considerable amount has been achieved, with the hospitals being targeted first, followed by the nursing homes. Once our most vulnerable are protected we will be in a considerably better place.” She said several hundred people were vaccinated in University Hospital Galway a few days ago.
“I believe vaccines should be voluntary with a positive campaign of encouragement,” commented Cllr John Carroll, Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council. “We need to highlight the positive results from previous vaccines for diseases such as Polio, Measles and Mumps.
“As for roll out speed, I believe it's early days to be critical. Once we are assured of the regular supply of the first and second rounds of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine then I am sure the Government and the HSE can move its distribution and administration to a higher level.
“At this point in time I would not be looking to Boris Johnson's Government as an example of best practice in terms of dealing with the Pandemic.”
“As a pro choice politician I believe healthcare is a choice,” remarked Cllr Clare Claffey. “I think Ireland has a long history of being positive, in general, about coming forward to receive vaccinations. The majority of Irish people, I believe, will take the vaccine if they believe there is a benefit from it; and the Health Minister and the HSE must make that positive message their priority. I believe we will get high levels of support for the vaccine and I look forward to that.
“I'm sure that the HSE has developed the best plan they can to deliver the vaccine as soon as possible to those most in need. It is vital that good plans are made to deliver the vaccine in rural areas of the country, especially to the elderly and vulnerable who live at home and not in care homes. These are the people we have been protecting with restrictions and lockdowns and we need to know how soon they will be receiving their vaccines which will ultimately allow us to start our journey back to some semblance of normality.”
Cllr Seamus Morris, Cathaoirleach of Nenagh Municipal District, said he himself will get a vaccine, “preferably one of the ones that will only require a single dose. I don't feel it should be compulsory although I have no faith in the HSE's ability to get through such a large body of work successfully.”
Cllr Peter Ormond told the Tribune that after the torrid experience which the world has gone through during 2020 his deepest desire is that 2021 will be a much more positive experience for everyone.
“I feel that the vaccine should be voluntary,” continued Cllr Ormond, “but would urge everyone who can take it to avail of it. We now live in a very open society with many different opinions and while it's important to take account of people's views, I would strongly recommend that people take the vaccine.
“We have been living with the Pandemic for nine months and the rollout of the vaccine gives people hope for the future.
“The vaccine was only approved by the EU just before Christmas and the HSE took delivery of its first batch on Saturday December 26. The first of the vaccines were distributed on Tuesday December 29 and there is a plan to roll it out to all nursing homes and front line staff in January and then to other sectors of the community over the next couple of months.
“Covid-19 is totally out of control in both the USA and the UK and I wouldn't like to be taking a lead from them in terms of controlling the virus. From talking to constituents in the community they seem happy that they know when they are going to receive the vaccination and that there is a plan in place. It's important that the people in our nursing homes, frontline staff and people who are most vulnerable to Covid-19 get priority.”
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