Covid vaccination scheme legal challenge is dropped

A man with a rare genetic disorder has ended his legal challenge to the prioritisation of Northern Ireland’s vaccination scheme.

Friday, 14th January 2022, 2:58 pm
Updated Saturday, 15th January 2022, 8:34 am

Lee Martin, 37, withdrew proceedings in order to protect public confidence in the ongoing Covid-19 booster campaign, according to his lawyers.

The Department of Health is to pay his costs as part of an agreement which saw the case formally dismissed at the High Court.

His solicitor, Kevin Winters, said: “Our client has achieved what he wanted, which was to be given earlier access to the vaccine.”

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Mr Martin, from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, had claimed discrimination in how the jabs were being rolled out. He is one of less than 100 people worldwide diagnosed with diploid triploid mosaicism (DSM).

His condition, which occurs when someone has two different types of cells with different numbers of chromosomes, means he requires 24-hour care.

He was classified as extremely vulnerable and put in category four on a priority list under the Department of Health’s Covid-19 Vaccination Programme Phased Plan.

That placed him below some healthcare staff against the Guidance of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), it was alleged.

Legal proceedings were issued earlier this year against the Department and the Western Health Trust in a bid to have him fast-tracked for the vaccine.

Mr Martin’s lawyers claimed backroom NHS staff were wrongly prioritised over vulnerable individuals.

Further grounds of challenge involve claims of irrationality and breach of human rights.

With Mr Martin receiving his jabs after commencing legal action, the Department argued that the challenge had been rendered academic.

Judicial review proceedings were set to examine the potential wider public importance for a cohort of thousands of other clinically vulnerable individuals whose lives could be at risk.

But an order was made today for the case to be dismissed on terms which include the Department paying Mr Martin’s legal costs.

Outside court Mr Winters pointed out that only frontline NHS are now being prioritised for jabs.

“In light of this change of course, and because our client does not wish to damage public confidence in the vaccination programme at a time when the booster programme is ongoing, our client has agreed to withdraw the judicial review,” he confirmed.

The solicitor added that Mr Martin and his mother, who took the case on his behalf, have been “fully vindicated by the costs order against the Department”.