Students who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will not be allowed to take up clinical placement in any HSE facilities.
The ban has come into effect since April 1, following a letter from HSE Chief Clinical Officer, Colm Henry to third level institutions. “Students that are eligible for vaccination, that have been offered vaccination and declined vaccination, should not be assigned to clinical placements in HSE facilities,” he said in the letter.
This is subject to review as the “epidemiological” (regarding the spread/control of the virus) situation evolves. Students who are in “very exceptional circumstances where there is specific and documented medical contraindication to vaccination for a healthcare students” are the exception to this new rule.
Dr Tracey Harrington of the DCU School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health said: “we’ll only send students out if we consider them safe, for themselves as well as patients they’re looking after.
She also said the primary concern of those in healthcare is the wellbeing of patients. “Your first priority is that: you do no harm when you’re caring for somebody. So if you’re a potential vector for an infection then you’re not protecting the patients.”
Dr Harrington also said that you cannot force anyone to take a vaccine, especially if they have medical reasons not to, but it is strongly encouraged.
Regina Mullen, a third-year nursing student in DCU, said she is looking forward to being fully vaccinated: “But it does make sense that you would be protected in the environment that we’re in. So, I’m happy to get it.”
Hannah Browne, another third year nursing student said: “It’s a right move for the era that we’re in now that it’s so dangerous with covid around.
“I’m happy to get it as well. But I know that some of my friends still are saying like no they don’t want to get it, it’s not tested enough. Especially with the AstraZeneca, like it was taken off the list and now it’s being put back on. So, I think everyone’s kind of left wondering what’s the story with that one.”
However, the prospect of suffering from the side-effects suffered after the AstraZeneca vaccine is also influencing whether or not student nurses wish to accept the vaccine.
“I think it definitely is a worry,” said Regina, “because I know that one of our friends is on placement when she’s due her second dose of AstraZeneca. So, she’s worried that she’ll have to make up the placement time because she was so sick the first time that she’s worried she’ll be just as sick from the second dose as well.
“They’re not really considering where we’ll be, they’re just giving us a random date for when we have to be there.”
It’s unclear as to what this new protocol will mean for incoming first year nursing students in September.