An Irish maternity hospital has apologised after leftover COVID-19 vaccines were given to relatives of staff.
Accusations emerged that the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital in Dublin had given spare coronavirus vaccine jabs to sixteen family members of staff, including two children of the hospital's manager.
The hospital said in a statement that the decision on Friday evening was made to ensure no vaccine was wasted after 1,100 frontline staff, local GPs, and community health workers were vaccinated at the hospital — 120 more than initially anticipated — and as the online portal to pre-book vaccination was not yet available.
"I personally made every effort to prioritise and identify additional frontline workers and followed all measures available to me at the time," hospital manager, Michael O’Connell, said.
"In hindsight, as Master, I deeply regret that family members of employees were vaccinated and for that, I wholeheartedly apologise."
Of the 16 recipients, nine were over 70, the hospital told Euronews, while the remaining seven "were of varying age". It did not state how old the other recipients were, arguing "it would not be appropriate for the hospital for comment on the individuals involved."
A number of unopened vials were, meanwhile kept and used on Monday for front-line workers, the hospital said.
Reports online that family members of staff had been vaccinated over hospital workers sparked outrage across Ireland.
"Trust here has been broken," tweeted David Cullinane, spokesperson for health in the Irish Parliament (Dáil) for the main opposition party, Sinn Féin.
"It is crucial the public has full confidence in the integrity of the vaccine rollout, this damages confidence," he added.
"A full account and explanation must be given."
Simon Harris, Irish Minister for further and higher education, research, innovation, and science, told reporters on Monday that he is "very concerned" by the allegations.
"Either there’s a protocol for ‘spare’ vaccines which wasn’t followed or perhaps more worryingly, there isn’t a protocol at all."
The Coombe Hospital has also stated that they had not been able to pre-book vaccinations under the Irish Health Service Executive system and be sure of the number of vaccinations required.
Ireland's health minister Stephen Donnelly has said he would seek a "full account" from the hospital.