Ireland's Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has asked the HSE to suspend vaccination operations at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin after the hospital gave 20 leftover COVID-19 vaccines to teachers at a private school in Wicklow.
Donnelly said that the hospital's decision to administer the vaccines to teachers at St. Gerard's Catholic School in Bray was "entirely inappropriate and completely unacceptable".
"I have considered this matter carefully and have worked with the HSE to assess the operational implications of suspending vaccine operations at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin," Donnelly said in a statement.
"I have now asked the HSE to suspend vaccine operations at the Beacon Hospital with the exception of those people who have already been scheduled to get their vaccine at the center."
The Beacon Hospital received fierce criticism for administering vaccines to teachers at St. Gerard's School in an incident first reported by the Irish Daily Mail.
🚨🚨 The Beacon Hospital vaccinated 20 teachers at a private school... where the CEO's children attend.March 25, 2021
The Daily Mail revealed that Michael Cullen, the hospital's CEO, personally called the school to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to teachers. Cullen's son is a student at the school, which is located 13km away from the Beacon Hospital.
School teachers are also in Cohort 11 of Ireland's vaccination roll-out. The HSE is currently administering vaccines to vulnerable patients in Cohort 4 of the roll-out.
Tanáiste Leo Varadkar said that the decision to suspend the Beacon Hospital's vaccination contract was correct.
"This really touched a nerve with people, especially older people and the medically vulnerable who have been waiting to get their vaccine. A response was necessary," Varadkar said.
"It was a clear breach of Government rules and simply should not have happened. I'd be interested to know what alternatives were really explored - were the vaccines offered to the gardaí in Dundrum, what about special education teachers and SNAs in local schools, local disability services, patients in the hospital who might have been well enough to be vaccinated, for example."
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond pointed out that there were 27 GP practices within 5km of the Beacon Hospital that could have provided a standby list of people in Cohort 4.
Sinn Féin's Spokesperson for Health David Cullinane welcomed the decision to cancel the Beacon's contract and called for full accountability.
"This should not have happened and there is no excuse," Cullinane said. "Public confidence in vaccine roll-out is crucial and is again undermined."