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healthcare workers

Booster programme to be extended 'more widely' as under-60s with chronic conditions likely next

It is expected that the rollout of booster jabs to healthcare workers could be completed in a number of weeks.

LAST UPDATE | 2 Nov 2021

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said he expects the Covid-19 booster programme to be extended “more widely” following the approval of booster jabs to healthcare workers.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said today that healthcare workers should receive a booster jab “as soon as possible” following last night’s recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). 

It is expected that the rollout of booster jabs to healthcare workers could be completed in a number of weeks. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Varadkar said that NIAC will next be considering the extension of booster jabs to people aged under 60 with chronic conditions. 

“I do believe we are going to need an extensive vaccination program. We’ve now got approval for over 60s, healthcare workers and people under 60 are immunocompromised,” he said.

I do think we will need approval and we’ll be seeking advice and approval from NIAC on extending the vaccine booster program more widely, particularly to those under 60 with chronic conditions and I know NIAC and NPHET are examining the evidence on that all the time.

Booster vaccines are to be rolled out to more than 800,000 people aged over 60 starting from this week, with over 41,000 people who are immunocompromised having already received a third jab. 

People receiving a booster jab will receive an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna, regardless of what their first course of vaccination was.

It will be administered at least six months after their last, with a minimum of five months in between. Breakthrough infections among healthcare workers will cause the booster dose to be delayed by at least six months after the detection of Covid-19.

The number of cases among nurses and midwives has been on the increase in recent weeks, meaning that booster doses will need to be delivered right up until late April 2022 at the earliest. It is believed that around 3,500 healthcare workers are currently off work as a result of a Covid-related illness.   

While no solid timeline has been confirmed, Minister Donnelly has said that boosters will be rolled out from this weekend.

“Our frontline healthcare workers have been at the cold face of this pandemic for almost two years, caring for those most vulnerable and making extraordinary personal sacrifices,” he said this morning. 

“It is important that we remember that vaccination, along with our continued adherence to the public health advice we are all so familiar with are the best ways we can protect each other.”

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan endorsed the recommendation and said: “We know that vaccination is very successful at preventing severe illness and hospitalisation. 

 “We also know that even when vaccinated we still need to maintain other basic public health interventions – washing our hands, opening windows, wearing masks and most importantly, staying home when we have symptoms. 

“These simple measures have shown themselves right through the pandemic to be very successful at breaking the chains of transmission of this disease.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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