We are 3 months into a level 5 lockdown and the R number remains stubbornly high. New variants, which will keep emerging, are more contagious. Our only hope is vaccination, but at the current rate, it will take more than 2 years to vaccinate everyone in Ireland.
While most of us are happy to wait our turn for a vaccine, many others have very genuine reasons to try to get vaccinated earlier. After all, every country has its own priority vaccination schedule, and they all differ. So, who is to say our Sequencing Rationale, as described on the HSE website, is optimal for everyone? Some people may have an underlying health condition that puts them in a risk category that has been neglected. Others may need a vaccine to be able to work and earn a wage, or to care for loved ones. There are many non-healthcare workers who are exposed to infection at work who have not been prioritised. If you feel you should get vaccinated as soon as possible because you are exposed to additional risks, is there anything you can do to get a jab sooner?
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- If you have any medical conditions that you believe may put you at a higher risk, (full list of conditions on the HSE website) make sure you have discussed these with your GP or consultant so that you will be included on the schedule of early vaccination for that condition. If your condition is not on the priority list, there may still be other options.
- The EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) entitles you to equal treatment on the public health system anywhere in the EU. As yet, there are no formal indications that this precludes a covid vaccine, although some countries have a requirement to register as a resident in advance. Therefore, as soon as any EU country pulls ahead in its vaccination program you may be able to travel there for valid medical reasons to get the vaccine.
- Some employers across Europe and the US have been designated strategic or critical industries and their employees have been offered early vaccination by their local Governments. The US CDC also allows for employers to vaccinate employees. If you work for an EU or US company, check with your HR department so see if there are any plans for employees to get vaccinated early.
- So far, there are no vaccines available privately, principally because US and European vaccine companies have agreed to sell vaccines only to public vaccination programs. However, it is not clear if Russian and Chinese vaccine producers will follow the same approach once they are approved. It is possible that these vaccines will become available privately before your turn comes on the Irish schedule. There have already been unconfirmed media reports that the vaccine is available privately in Dubai.
- If you are a citizen, or indeed a former resident or taxpayer in any jurisdiction that is ploughing ahead on their own vaccination programs (such as Israel, the US or UK), you may still be entitled to receive a vaccination there. Check the local registration requirements for example in the UK, you would need a National Insurance Number.
- Some media reports have indicated that once jurisdictions that are making the best progress have vaccinated their population, it could be possible to receive a vaccine by presenting at a vaccination centre in these countries. They will, after all, want to reduce the risk to everyone in the country, including visitors, to avoid further outbreaks and so that unused vaccines don’t get discarded.
- If you are a member of a Trade Union, Professional, or Industry Association, it may be appropriate to ask your organisation to make the case to officials in Government for members to be vaccinated earlier than planned. You may be able to build a case because of the importance or risk of the work you do.
Some of the above routes to early vaccination are potentially complex and carry their own risks, but as far as I can see there are no guidelines or rules against trying to get a vaccine early if you have good reasons for not being able to wait.
We all want our own Irish vaccination program to speed up and succeed. We are all supportive of the great efforts being made, but some people are in particularly precarious positions and will take the view that they can no longer wait for the State to secure their safety.
Are you in a risk category because of a medical condition or because of the requirements of your work? At what point would you consider alternatives to waiting in line?
Or would you still be happy to wait as long as it takes?
Share your experience and views below.