‘It will take two years to inoculate everyone’ – MacSharry

MacSharry to Donnelly during Dail debate on the availability of Covid vaccine

Sligo News File

Deputy Marc MacSharry to Fianna Fail Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly 

“Has the Minister, the Taoiseach or anybody on behalf of the State been in contact with the CEOs of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson to acquire supplies additional to those being delivered via the EU scheme?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly

There is ongoing contact at the appropriate level, which is task force level, between the State and the pharmaceutical companies. However, let us be very clear. If Ireland went on its own and tried to secure volumes of vaccine, as a tiny country in a highly competitive global market right now, we would not do very well. What we are doing is working as part of the EU. The EU has supplied significant quantities and they are being distributed pro rata. Ireland gets 1.11%. The total amount we have now signed up to is a little in excess of 14 million doses of vaccine.

Deputy Marc MacSharry

I will take that as a “No”. The Minister indicated that there was contact at the appropriate level but then went on to say that the EU is doing a great job and we will be doing well. Earlier, he stated that there will be 50,000 vaccinations a week. If that is the limit we are tied to then, as I said earlier, it will take us two years to inoculate everyone. I respectfully suggest that the Minister or the Taoiseach lift the phone because that is what I would do. If the Minister decides that Ireland is a small country and will not get the vaccine anywhere else, then he will be right that we will not. I would lift the phone to Stéphane Bancel of Moderna, Albert Bourla of Pfizer, Pascal Soriot of AstraZeneca and Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson and ask how much do they want because we are prepared to pay and that Ireland is putting Irish citizens first, just like Germany and Israel are doing as regards their citizens. As the Minister’s party colleague, I appeal to him to shelve the good European line just for once. We will pay for whatever they give us but let us look for more for our people.

My next question is not related but it is very important. In the post-Brexit scenario, it seems that under the cross-border directive, pre-authorised patients in the Republic seeking various surgeries in the North for which they were preapproved are now being told by the relevant section of the HSE in Kilkenny that it is awaiting a policy decision from the Department of Health and that until it gets that decision, it can do nothing. The Minister is aware, as are all Ministers and anybody in the business of politics, that people have taken out credit union loans and borrowed from family to arrange their procedures in the North under the cross-border directive with pre-authorisation from the HSE. Now we are welching on it because we are waiting for a policy decision from the Department of Health. We all celebrated a Brexit deal. It would not look like much of a deal to me if I had booked into a clinic for a procedure for which the HSE was going to reimburse me and I borrowed from the credit union or family members to pay for it and now the HSE is saying it is waiting for a policy decision. Let us up the game, take the policy decision and ensure that patients are getting what we told them we would provide.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly

I thank the Deputy. Moving on—–

Deputy Stephen Donnelly

A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, two seconds.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

I am sorry, Minister—–

Deputy Stephen Donnelly

No, sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I am responding to this, with respect. It will be one sentence and I am responding. Deputy MacSharry—–

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Minister, please, I have already taken one Deputy to task. You do not tell the Leas-Cheann Comhairle what you are doing. The ruling from me is that we are sticking to the time. If you seek permission by way of exception I might accede to that but I ask you to have a little respect for the Chair, not a finger-pointing exercise. I am giving you 20 seconds to answer.

Deputy Stephen Donnelly

Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I would note that when you were on the floor—–

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Would you please reply?

Deputy Stephen Donnelly

—–you were given a lot more than 20 seconds.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

I am going to stop now and move on because the Minister has not used his—–

Deputy Stephen Donnelly

Agreed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

I am sorry, Minister. I am moving on—–

Deputy Marc MacSharry

On a point of order—–

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

What is the point of order?

Deputy Marc MacSharry

I propose a very small amendment to the Order of Business to permit the Minister of the day to answer a question. I am sure we will get a seconder.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

That is not—–

Deputy Marc MacSharry

Would anyone like to second that? The idea that—–

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Would the Deputy please resume his seat? I have been more—–

Deputy Marc MacSharry

It makes a mockery of this House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Deputy, could you please resume your seat?

(Interruptions).

Deputy Marc MacSharry

As an outspoken Deputy—–

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Deputy, would you please resume your seat?

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle

That is not a point of order. I have been more than flexible in my time. I am now moving on. If at the end some Deputy decides not to use all of his or her time or if the Ministers are quicker there might be some time available. I call Deputy Darren O’Rourke.

Deputy Darren O’Rourke

In fairness, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle did provide the Minister with some time to respond but he did not use it. That was the way I saw it.”