Hundreds of desperate Irish residents try to book jabs in NORTHERN Ireland where half the population has been vaccinated – compared to just 10% south of the border
- People from as far as Dublin and Galway have even been making the journey
- Around half the adult population has now been inoculated in Northern Ireland
- Head of NI vaccine drive Patricia Donnelly urged ROI residents to stay away
Exasperated Irish residents are booking vaccine appointments in the North to take advantage of the UK’s much faster rollout.
People from as far as Dublin and Galway have even been making the journey across the border.
Around half the adult population has now been inoculated in Northern Ireland, compared to 10 per cent for the Republic.
The lowly jab rate reflects the EU’s bungled immunisation drive that has left the Continent more vulnerable to a third wave of coronavirus.
The head of Northern Ireland’s vaccine programme Patricia Donnelly this week urged people coming for jabs from the Republic to stay away.
Pat Phelan, a 50-something entrepreneur from Cork, used his old postcode from when he lived in London in the 1990s to obtain his NHS number
The lowly jab rate in Ireland reflects the EU’s bungled immunisation drive that has left the Continent more vulnerable to a third wave of coronavirus (Ursula von der Leyen pictured)
The UK’s vaccine rollout has surged far ahead of the EU’s leaving the bloc under huge pressure to explain why
She said: ‘We are seeing increasing numbers of ineligible people, including people from the ROI, trying to book an appointment at one of our vaccination centres.
‘Only those who meet the criteria will be vaccinated. If you turn up and are not eligible you will be turned away and you will have wasted staff time in the process.’
But Irish residents with tangible connections to the UK have been exploiting a ‘loophole’ to let them book vaccine slots.
Pat Phelan, a 50-something entrepreneur from Cork, used his old postcode from when he lived in London in the 1990s to obtain his NHS number.
He has now managed to book an appointment in Derry – roughly a 303-mile journey.
But he told the Irish Examiner: ‘I won’t take it. I’m very healthy and well. But it is open and people can do it.
‘It’s unfair on the British obviously, because if I was to go up there, I’d be stealing someone’s spot.’
Michael Phylan, 56, a taxi driver from County Tipperary, said his wife, also in her 50s, has managed to book an appointment in Derry next month.
She used to live in Manchester and has retained her British citizenship and national insurance number.
Mr Phylan said she is weighing up whether to go ahead with the appointment or cancel.
He thinks that she should be entitled to a jab, having once paid taxes in the UK, but called on health officials to better clarify who exactly is eligible for Northern Ireland slots.
Northern Ireland’s health body said only those with a health and care number and registered Northern Ireland GP are eligible.
Ms Donnelly stressed that anyone booking vaccine slots from the Republic who isn’t eligible will be turned away.
She said: ‘Check before you book. Do not make a wasted journey. You will not be vaccinated unless you are eligible.’
The EU’s vaccine rollout has been beset with problems that have hamstrung inoculation efforts.
Brussels is complaining it has been denied crucial supplies from drug-makers – despite stocks being wasted because of low take-up rates.
The bloc today unveiled plans to block vaccine exports to countries with high jab rates that don’t ‘reciprocate’ by sharing supplies.
The European Commission defied anxiety over undermining legal contracts as it published new proposals widening the criteria for restricting exports.
At a press conference in Brussels, vice-president Valdis Dombrovkis complained that the EU had exported 43million doses to 33 countries since January.
He said exports could be restricted to destination countries that limit their own exports of jabs or raw materials – whether by law or other means.
Mr Dombrovkis said the other principle would be whether a state’s vaccination rate and infection levels were ‘better or worse than the EU’s’.
The move came amid extraordinary reports today that 29million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine are being held at a plant in Italy.