Irish Rural Link expresses concern over location barriers in accessing vaccine

Irish Rural Link (IRL) has expressed its concern for those in rural communities trying to access Covid-19 vaccinations.

The national network has called on the government to put measures in place to help those over 70 get to the larger vaccine centres to access their vaccination.

“The Department of Health, the HSE and GP’s in the larger towns must work with rural transport and Local Link operators to ensure that those over 70 and, indeed, those with suppressed immune systems living in rural areas who do not have access to a car, are brought to these centres to get the vaccine,” IRL said.

“During the first Covid-19 lockdown, IRL [was] involved with colleagues from The Wheel in [delivering] the Covid-19 Community Outreach programme.

This ensured that all those ‘cocooning’ were linked in to essential services in their areas – brought shopping or meals; medicines; and stayed connected to family, friends and neighbours in their community.

“We now see the need for this programme to be re-established as our community champions may be able to assist people to the centres.”

CEO of IRL Seamus Boland added that “we are running the risk of having those most susceptible to getting the virus missing out on receiving the vaccine because of where they live”.

“A plan outlining measures must now be put in place to ensure they can access these centres easily.”

Study on impact of Covid-19 on older people

A recent study by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) found that older adults most concerned about the Covid-19 pandemic are aged 70 and over and live alone (54%); are female (52%); are educated to primary level (56%); and live in rural areas (51%).

The study also found that loneliness is significantly higher among women.

“Older adults who left school by the end of their primary education are significantly lonelier on average than those who had completed third level education.

Older adults who live alone are also lonelier than those who lived with at least one other person. There is no difference in levels of loneliness among different age groups or between those adults who live in rural or urban areas.

Other findings include that women who live in Dublin are more likely to report they had cared for someone during the pandemic (23%) compared to women (15%), and men (12%) who live in a rural area.

The prevalence of a confirmed or suspected case of Covid-19 infection is almost twice as high in Dublin (7%) compared to other cities (4%) and towns or rural areas (4%).