By Paddy Henry
Ballybrit racecourse has been chosen ahead of NUI Galway as the centre for the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) mass vaccination programme in Galway city.
NUI Galway had held discussions with the HSE over using the University campus to inoculate people across the county, and was seen by many as the ideal location for the city’s mass vaccination hub.
Since the beginning of the pandemic NUI Galway has been providing the HSE with use of its buildings as contact tracing centres and isolation hubs for free.
Other Universities have already been selected as vaccination hubs with Dublin City University selected as one of the capital’s four centres.
In a statement to SIN, the University Management Team reaffirmed their commitment to supporting the national effort in combating the pandemic and said that they were open to farther discussions with state agencies to assist in the national effort against Covid-19,
“Our University community is deeply committed to supporting the Government and the public good in whatever way we can to combat the virus. As part of that, and as part of wider scoping exercises for vaccination centres in the region, NUI Galway has had engagement with the HSE. The University remains open to further discussions with Government agencies to ensure that we help in whatever way we can to respond to the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic.”, they said.
Ballybrit Racecourse was confirmed alongside thirty-six other mass vaccination centres last week by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
The decision to grant county Galway, just one mass vaccination centre has been roundly criticised by elected representatives in the city,
A spokeswoman for Independent TD Catherine Connolly described the decision as “inexplicable” and that the Leas Ceann Comhairle has written to the Minister for Heath about the decision.
Fianna Fáil stalwart Eamon Ó’Cúiv rounded on his party colleague, telling SIN, “I don’t think the Minister for Health is good at understanding how ordinary people think, the only question people want to know the answer to is; Where do I go?
“I’m not quite clear, and that’s a lousy piece of PR. I know, that I’m not clear as a government deputy about what these mass vaccination centres are going to do, because it seems to me that the most efficient way of getting the vaccine out there is through the GP.
Ó’Cuív also expressed his confusion over the decision to overlook the University as a potential location for mass inoculation, but suggested that a return to on-campus teaching in September may have been the reason behind it,
“I presume that there was some logistical reason behind it to do with the availability of buildings or parking, but I’m a bit surprised that they’re not using the Bailey Allen Hall. But perhaps that might be because there might be exams going on in it later and that kind of thing when the disease is fairly under control.” he said.
The HSE noted that the centres were selected based on population, ease of access, transport and parking. They also stated that centres will be of different sizes and operating hours and will be based on vaccine supply and catchment area need.
The Minister said that while the vaccination programme will be largely dependent on supply, he expects to see mass vaccination centres operating at full capacity in the coming months,
“We have always said the vaccination programme would only be limited by the availability and reliability of supply in these early stages of the programme. In the coming months supply will increase substantially and we will see these centres operating to full capacity and administering vaccines to the general population, following the Government priority list.”