The daughter of a 96-year-old woman in an Abbeyfield home has accused the Department of Health of jeopardising the life of her mother and more than 200 residents by not including them in the care home vaccination programme.
She said that bureaucratic box ticking could have caused "countless deaths" and that frail pensioners were forced to wait around two months longer for the vaccine, leaving them vulnerable when Covid was rampant after Christmas.
She was speaking after BBC Spotlight revealed that a 92-year-old woman was skipped over in the care home vaccination programme because she was a "temporary resident".
Vaccinators visited the Co Antrim care home where Dorothy Kane was staying on December 16 but Department of Health policy meant only permanent residents received the jab.
Dorothy tested positive for Covid the following month and died. Her daughter, Maxine Kane, said she regretted not pushing harder for her mother to be vaccinated.
The daughter of the 96-year-old woman in the Abbeyfield home said: "My heart goes out to Maxine and it makes me so angry. The story of bureaucracy trumping the protection of a vulnerable old person is not the exception.
"I've been stunned by the inertia of the Department of Health that left more than 200 residents in Abbeyfield homes in Northern Ireland unprotected because they did not fall into a precise little bureaucratic box.
"Thankfully, their inaction did not cost lives, but it could so easily have worked out differently."
The Abbeyfield residents were omitted from the care home vaccination programme, which began in early December, because they are officially classified as living in 'supported housing' since they wash and dress themselves and their medical needs are provided by outside domiciliary carers.
"These are people in their 80s and 90s - some in the early stages of dementia - who live in a communal setting almost identical to a care home," said the daughter.
"I've found the system heartless and inflexible. Ultimately, the buck stops with the minister, Robin Swann."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The vaccination of care homes was completed by Trust mobile teams. Trusts also assessed supported living sites within their areas and vaccinated those at similar risk to care homes.
"Residents of supported living sites not vaccinated by Trust mobile teams will have been invited for vaccination in line with their relevant age cohort.
"Those confined to home will be vaccinated by their GP or district nurse."