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People in their 30s and 40s to be offered booster jab this month as roll-out to be accelerated

People in the 50-59 age cohort will start to be offered appointments for the additional dose from today.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE BOOSTER PROGRAMME is to be accelerated, with appointments for a booster dose of the vaccine to begin to be offered to people in their 30s and 40s before Christmas, it is understood. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated that the speeding up of the roll-out would mean that people under 40 will be offered their additional shot “very soon”. 

It is understood that the government aims to offer a booster dose to both the 40-49 age cohort as well as 30-39 year olds before Christmas.

For those who received an mRNA vaccine – either Pfizer or Moderna – this will be a third dose. It will be a second dose for the much smaller number of people in these cohorts who received a Janssen vaccine.  

The waiting time between second mRNA doses and booster shots remains at five months, meaning that it will still be some time before most people in their 30s will be able to receive the jab. The recommended gap for those who received a Janssen dose is three months, and for the vast majority of people who were given that jab initially that wait time has now elapsed. 

Additionally, people who had Covid-19 since they were vaccinated can get a booster at least six months after their positive test result.

Acceleration 

People in the 50-59 age cohort will start to be offered appointments for the additional dose from today.

It is understood that considerations are being given to opening up the booster programme to all age groups, possibly before Christmas, due to what government sources have described as “reduced enthusiasm” among some members of the public towards getting the third shot. 

Many people in their 30s did not receive their second mRNA jab until late July or August of this year, which would mean they could not get their third dose until late December or January. Any decision to cut the five month gap between mRNA doses would have to be approved by NIAC.

NIAC set out in its most recent recommendations that for those aged 16-39, boosters should be administered in descending order of age cohort – 30-39 years, 20-29 years and 16-19 years.

But for people aged 16-29 who received the Janssen vaccine, NIAC recommended that they be offered a booster dose in parallel with people aged 30-39 who received other vaccines.  

Appointments missed 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this week that 215,000 appointments for Covid-19 booster shots were missed in the last two weeks.

He later told the Dáil that he was not intending to cast blame by highlighting the figures, but said there is not the same public urgency in relation to boosters. 

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that large numbers of people have been offered more than one appointment, and have been unable to cancel unneeded appointments due to problems with the booking system. 

As a result, there have been calls for clarity around what is causing Covid-19 vaccine booster appointments to have “no-show” rates of up to 50% at some centres.

Several people who have already received their booster jab told The Journal that they were unable to cancel unneeded appointments after being contacted by the HSE.

Similar cases were also raised with the Taoiseach in the Dáil yesterday. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he is “trying get little bit more information” around “teething problems” with the booster roll out.  

He said such statistics around no-shows for appointments did seem “strange” and “unusual”, while acknowledging that there are “definitely issues that need to be ironed out”. 

The number of people who have received booster jabs reached one million earlier this week. 

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In a statement sent to The Journal,  the HSE said “in comparison to the primary vaccination programme it is clear that it is taking longer to vaccinate people in some cohorts”.

“This is evident in lower attendance rates at both scheduled clinics, and at our walk in clinics.

“Even allowing for acknowledged issues with notification across the different vaccination systems, it is evident that it is taking longer for people to attend for the booster vaccination,” said a spokesperson for the HSE.

“We are trying to encourage people to take their appointment when it is offered if at all possible, if not to let the HSE know if you do not wish to take up your appointment or attend a walk in service at either a vaccination centre or a pharmacy.”

The HSE said NIAC have set out the priority cohorts for administration of the booster programme and the HSE are working through these cohorts.

“We are also factoring in the eligibility criteria set out by NIAC and this means we are operating a lot of the cohorts in parallel in order to maintain momentum. We can only vaccinate people when we have reached their cohorts, based on priorities and when they have become eligible,” said the HSE. 

Explaining why some people may be getting multiple offers for appointments, the HSE said:

“In order to give people maximum opportunity to get a booster and to use all capacity in the programme we are using vaccination centres, GPs and pharmacies as vaccination channels. This can mean that people will occasionally get appointments from multiple sources, or indeed after already been vaccinated. While steps have been taken to minimise this, it is inevitable this will occur but our priority is to ensure we give people maximum choices to get vaccinated.”

If people do not wish to take up an appointment and are attending a walk in service at either a vaccination centre or a pharmacy instead, there are three options to cancel appointments, according to the HSE:

  • Text message stating NEW (if you want to reschedule) or REJECT (if vaccinated or do not want to take up the booster)
  • Complete an online form here.
  • Or telephone HSELive on 1800 700 700

Varadkar said he would encourage everyone to take up the third dose of the vaccine when offered to them. He said early evidence shows that the Omnicron variant is more transmissible but less severe in terms of illness.

The booster shot offers a high level of protection, he said.

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