The roll-out of the vaccination in this country has been “an absolute scandal and a disgrace” according to Cllr Peggy Nolan who, along with her council colleagues has been fighting with the HSE and government officials for months to get a vaccination centre in Longford.
Now that a site has been identified in Newtownforbes for a Longford centre, it seems it will be some time before it is up and running in a manner efficient enough to ensure the successful roll-out of the vaccine in the county.
“We, the elected members of Longford County Council, dragged our heels and we were told in no uncertain terms that we wouldn’t be getting a vaccination centre,” said Cllr Nolan, who has been quite vocal from the get go on Longford’s need for a vaccination centre.
“We were expected to travel 30 plus kilometres to another county to get vaccinated in a time when we’re not supposed to be travelling more than five kilometres from home.
“It is an absolute scandal and a disgrace the way this vaccine has been rolled out. We are in the middle of a world pandemic and we now have a cure - a vaccine - that will lessen the chances of fatality and might save your life,” she added.
“And yet the people responsible for protecting the people in this country are not stepping up to the plate in an efficient enough manner.
“Now, I’m not in a position to dictate what should or shouldn’t happen. But as a local politician, my primary concern is Longford and its people. We didn’t make this into a political thing. We stood away from it but as local politicians, we had to fight for a vaccination centre in Longford and now we have one.
“Will our centre be rolled out on a par with the rest of the country? I don’t know. But people are more weary now and with the scandal that is the vaccine roll-out, is it any wonder?”
Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council Paul Ross said that he firmly believes the vaccine roll-out could be “the biggest scandal the state has seen”.
“Local politicians have worked very hard to get the vaccination centre. We were left out at the start,” he said.
“The council have been asked to provide staff regarding management, parking and that kind of thing and the council won’t be found wanting when it comes to that.
“But the HSE will need to bring in medical staff and that will depend on the roll-out of the vaccine in the area.”
Longford County Council and its elected members are going to do everything they can to get the Newtownforbes centre up and running, he added, and will be relying on the HSE to put in a similar level of commitment.
“But this is not happening fast enough. I don’t have faith in the HSE in the current roll-out. There are parts of Longford that are better off than other parts and it seems to be the only difference is which GP you go to,” Cllr Ross continued.
“So I question the HSE’s ability to roll out this vaccine. The only way we can get our lives back together is by the vaccine. We all want to open up. People are sick and tired of lockdown. We can’t be left behind on this.”
Cllr Ross plans to raise the issue at the next HSE forum, and will submit a notice of motion at the next meeting of Longford County Council calling for Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and the HSE “to open the vaccination centre in Longford as soon as possible to deal with the fact that we have had the highest cases per head of population in the country, to protect our citizens from the virus and get our county back to work”.
Responding to a query as to when the Longford Covid-19 vaccination centre at Newtownforbes will be up and running, a HSE spokesperson said there was "no date as yet" for the opening of the centre: “Work continues in the preparation of all the vaccination centres in the Midlands, including Newtownforbes.”