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07 Jul 2022

‘I never thought I’d still be vaccinating...’ - Kildare councillor and nurse Peggy O'Dwyer describes working on the Covid-19 frontline

Cllr Peggy O’Dwyer — a nurse turned vaccinator — describes working at the Covid-19 frontline in 2021

‘I never thought I’d still be vaccinating...’ - Kildare councillor and nurse Peggy O'Dwyer describes working on the Covid-19 frontline

Cllr Peggy O'Dwyer

As a vaccinator who at first answered Ireland’s call during the pandemic and later joined a vaccination programme, it’s been some journey.

Covid-19 is probably the greatest global health challenge we have had to deal with for a number of decades.

As a nurse who went back as a vaccinator last January, I never thought I would still be vaccinating nearly a year on with no end in sight.

The vaccinator role has been a role reversal from caring for the sick to preventing illness.

My work colleagues are amazing and I have developed new friends from all types of health care backgrounds.

We have fun and found who can bake and who can’t. I am one of the latter!

To share a space with a physiotherapist, dentist, paramedics and other professionals, each one of us doing the same job, has made the experience a privilege — and, of course, the most important people within this whole programme, the general
population.

The unvaccinated

The question arises as to why are people choosing not to come forward for vaccinations? There is probably no one reason.

Some feel that’s it’s just a mild illness; others feel they are been forced into a vaccination programme they are not sure of.

Natural immunity will have been achieved through getting Covid- 19 and they feel they are protected.

Of course, we have the anti-vax movement which gives inaccurate information and accuses pharmaceutical companies of producing vaccine just to make money. The Covid-19 vaccine has come through rigorous trials and has been licensed for use worldwide.

Recent CSO figures show that the rate of vaccinations among adults from Central and Eastern Europe counties is less than half that of Irish nationals.

Research has shown that only 44% of emigrants from the EU newer states are fully vaccinated.

In comparison to over 91% of adults eligible vaccinated and 93% over the 18 plus population vaccinated in Ireland.

This disparity of uptake has resulted in the HSE developing a number of actions which are constantly under review.

Campaign

There are also a number of groups that still need to be vaccinated, not just from the EU and migrant communities, that will be targeted under the current campaign.

Damian McCallion, National Director of the HSE Vaccination programme, on a recent radio interview,

highlighted that many EU citizens do not listen to mainstream media and English may not be their first language.

Material has been translated into 27 languages with over 36 multilingual video educational tools developed to provide accurate information on the risks and benefits of the vaccination programme.

Other targeted methods went through local community radio, local language papers and the Department of Justice interactions.

Workplace initiatives include the use of interpreters and the provision of transport to vaccination hubs.

Healthcare staff are also present to promote vaccination uptake as some communities need additional information and it is an ongoing process.

We know we have a large multi-cultural work force working in various industries.

We need to protect these workers as they are vital for the local economy and are part of our society.

Medically vulnerable groups need to get vaccinated to prevent serious illness and possible death.

As we continue to fight this very difficult virus, walk -in clinics, vaccination centres, pharmacies and primary care centres will continue to encourage people to come forward for vaccination.

While we battle on, we must all continue with the same information that we have been maintaining for nearly two years.

This public health advice is so important: hand hygiene, cough etiquette, mask wearing and social distancing.

The vaccinated are — in the words of Dr Paddy Mallon, an infectious disease consultant — the ‘innocent bystanders’, with risk of severe illness from unvaccinated individuals. We must keep going with the vaccinations for as long as it takes to get it control so that our economy, health care system, education system gets back on track.

We owe it to each other and out of respect to all who have died as a result of Covid-19 — we will always remember them.

Interview by Senan Hogan

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