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HSE tells centres to allow boosters after 3-month gap as Cabinet discusses Covid developments

Stephen Donnelly said the Government will assess more measures and scheduling options so more people can get the booster jab.

Image: Shutterstock/89stocker

Updated Dec 14th 2021, 1:44 PM

THE HSE HAS asked vaccine centres to facilitate people to get their Covid-19 booster jab three months after receiving their second dose.

New guidance issued by the health service, which is pending upgrades to its IT system, says that vaccination centres should facilitate people who have not yet received a booster dose but who have waited more than three months.

“The HSE has issued guidance, pending updates to the IT system, to vaccination centres to facilitate people to get their Covid-19 vaccine booster dose at three months, in line with NIAC guidance,” said a spokesperson for the HSE.

It comes after Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced last night that the gap between the second jab and a booster dose would be reduced to three months, down from the previously recommended five and a half months.

Donnelly also said that the Government would be assessing more measures and scheduling options so more people could access a booster jab.

He recently brought proposals to Cabinet to expand the booster programme to more GPs, pharmacies and pop-up vaccine centres.

Currently, booster doses are only being offered to:

  • People aged 50 and over
  • People living in a long-term healthcare facility or nursing home
  • Healthcare workers
  • People aged 16-49 with an underlying health condition

New schedule

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting this morning, Donnelly said his department will be working with the HSE to enhance the programme. He also added that a new schedule was being devised.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin also called for “all hands on deck” over the booster campaign.

Martin said it was “critical” that more GPs and pharmacists become involved in the programme.

“Over the weekend there have been detailed talks and engagement between government ministers and officials and the HSE in relation to the booster campaign,” he added.

“I want to thank everybody who has been involved in administering the booster jab so far.

“We need everybody on board now, all hands on deck in relation to the booster campaign because Omicron is of serious concern.

“We know the booster can give lots of protection so I thank everyone who has been involved and I think there is ongoing engagement now that we can get as many GPs to continue and to stay involved, and get more involved.

“Likewise, to get more pharmacies involved in terms of administrating the vaccine over the coming days and weeks. I think that is critical in terms of the booster campaign.”

The Taoiseach added that the Defence Forces “are involved, have been involved and will be increasing their involvement in supporting the vaccination programme”.

Omicron’s transmissibility

The Taoiseach today said that the public have “adjusted their behaviours” in recent weeks, which has helped stabilise the number of cases and the number of people admitted to hospital with the virus.

“Given the nature of Omicron, we are in ongoing contact and engagement with public health but the focus over the last few days has been on the booster campaign and working out the most effective ways we can expand it and get more people jabbed as quickly as possible,” the Fianna Fail leader added.

He said Government ministers got “very sobering advice” about the transmissibility of Omicron.

“We have been working through the weekend and have been in touch with Niac (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) as well,” Donnelly added.

“There is a lot being worked through at the moment. The most important thing is that we are able to administer as many boosters as possible.

“We already have the fourth highest booster vaccination rate anywhere in the EU, which is very positive, so we are coming from a very strong place, but it is very important to me and others that we go further.

“It really is all hands on deck to get as many people boosted as quickly as possible.

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“We are looking at a lot of measures, I am bringing an updated memo to Cabinet this morning on that.

“So we are looking at how we can support GPs and pharmacists in doing as many boosters as possible, how we can open up the vaccine clinics as much as possible.

“Can we have more pop-up vaccine centres for example, looking at options around scheduling.

“Looking at times during the week where there seems to be less demand.

“We will be going through a detailed process with the Department of Health, with the HSE to make sure we get as many boosted as possible.

“In the meantime, the message to everybody is really stronger now than ever. The emerging evidence we have on Omicron is that it is absolutely essential that people get their boosters, that the additional protection it gives is very, very significant.”

Additional reporting by Tadgh McNally

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