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COVID-19 vaccination potential no-shows

With the HSE’s vaccination drive beginning to ramp up, more and more people are starting to get invited to attend a COVID-19 vaccination. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s projected that potentially up to 80% of all adults will have received a vaccine by the end of June, assuming all vaccination targets are met. However, IrishTech can report that some of these vaccination invitations are not being sent from official HSE emails, and could potentially be mistaken for spam. This builds upon fears voiced by Cathal Crowe, a Clare TD, in which he claimed that some people are missing their COVID-19 vaccination appointments because they believed that an invitation text was a “scam“.

In two vaccination invitations seen by IrishTech, neither of the invitations came directly from the HSE. One of the invitations came from covid19vaccinationschemehse@gmail.com, and was initially thought to be spam. The email, which invites the recipient to attend their COVID-19 vaccination at the Aviva Stadium on a given date and time, is below. The name is removed and the date and time changed in order to protect the identity of the person who shared it. The person who received this email initially thought that it was a spam email until they contacted the HSE and discovered that it was real and were told to attend at the given date and time.

When they did attend, they were told that they were meant to have received the email weeks ago and that they were now not able to receive the vaccine as the Aviva Stadium is currently only in use for Vaxzevria (previously AstraZeneca). They were told to contact their GP in order to arrange a Pfizer vaccination. They also contacted the HSE to ask which organisation had registered them as eligible with an underlying condition, but the HSE did not know the answer.

As part of the email, there is also a COVID-19 vaccination consent form that is meant to be printed and brought with you on the day. It is our understanding that the consent forms shown below are older consent forms that used to be listed on the HSE’s website, but were replaced with vaccine-specific forms. We have watermarked them to prevent them from being used.

There are a number of issues with the document above. The issue date is the 6th of January, 2020, not 2021, and the link (https://www.hse.ie/screening-and-vaccinations/covid-19-vaccine) does not work. The link should be www2 (as in, https://www2.hse.ie/screening-and-vaccinations/covid-19-vaccine), not www. There are also grammatical errors throughout, and an inconsistent capitalisation of “COVID-19”. All of these oversights, along with the email given above, would convince many people that this email is fake. The person who received this invitation was initially going to ignore it but decided to phone the HSELive COVID-19 helpline just in case.

When asked for comment regarding whether or not the HSE is inviting people for vaccinations from Gmail addresses, the HSE provided the following:

“The HSE has been made aware of fraudulent SMS (text) messages and emails circulating which seek to elicit payment for Covid-19 vaccine appointments. We are asking people to be vigilant. The HSE will never ask for payment for a Covid-19, or any other, vaccine. Please do not respond to a text message or click on a link that is asking for payment for a Covid-19 vaccine. If people are unsure about the source of a message, they should contact HSE Live for more information. The HSELive COVID-19 Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Lo-call: 1850 24 1850.”

When asked for clarification in the context of the information above, the HSE did not respond to further requests for comment. It is unknown how widespread this issue is. Both people affected were in the same locality, however, were invited for vaccinations by different email accounts.

Post Author: Adam Conway

An Irish technology fanatic in his final year of a Computer Science degree. Lover of smartphones, cybersecurity and Counter Strike. You can contact me at adam.conway@irishtech.ie.