Prioritisation Politics: Covid-19 Vaccine

Published on 13 January 2021 at 12:20

With a third wave of Covid-19 sweeping across the world, devastating families and pressuring health services, a vaccine provides hope for many. The approval of a second vaccine by Moderna, with Ireland in line for 900,000 doses, offers more flexibility for the inoculation process.  A vaccine may not enable us to return to our lives pre-covid but  will offer a glimmer of hope for life beyond Covid-19.


 However as we match into 2021, the question is “When are you getting the vaccine?”


The Department of Health published a provisional vaccine allocation list in early December of 2020.  The list clearly outlines the order in which the vaccine will be allocated.


There are fifteen different categories on the list ranging from adults aged 65 and older in long-term care facilities to under eighteens and pregnant women.


This list is as follows:

  1. People aged 65 years and older who are residents of long-term care facilities (likely to include all staff and residents on site)
  2. Frontline healthcare workers.
  3. People aged 70 and older.
  4. Other healthcare workers not indirect patient contact.
  5. People aged 65-69.
  6. Key workers.
  7. People aged 18-64 with certain medical conditions.
  8. Residents of long term care facilities aged 18-64.
  9. People aged 18-64 living or working in crowded settings.
  10. Key workers in essential jobs who cannot avoid a high risk of exposure.
  11. People working in the education sector.
  12. People aged 55-64.
  13. Other workers in occupations important to the functioning of society.
  14. Other people aged 18-54.
  15. People aged under 18 and pregnant women.


The rationale for this prioritisation stems from  the need to provide essential services and to reduce risk of hospitalisation. The ethical principles are also clearly laid out upholding the fundamentals of minimising harm and safeguarding welfare.


The course of the virus has changed since this list was published. Ireland is now experiencing its third lockdown and facing a crisis in the health service. One difference that in this third lockdown compared to the second is the closure of schools. The Christmas break was extended and then schools are closed across the country until the 31st of January with remote learning taking place from the 11th of January.


The government has made the reopening of school its priority since its formation. If this is to be delivered students, teachers  and school staff may have to be rescheduled in the rollout.


 Concern around the facilitation of state examinations have surfaced but the government is determined to ensure that the traditional examinations will go ahead.This may also influence vaccine prioritisation. Could students be prioritised to ensure that the exams go ahead as planned? What effect will this have on others of a similar age group?


Just last week the Garda Representative Association called for gardaí to be prioritised after numerous outbreaks in garda stations across the country.This will undoubtedly be the first of many outcries for vaccine prioritisation.


Lockdown fatigue is widespread and the government will have to make some difficult prioritisation decisions in the coming weeks and months.

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