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'They're key workers': Health expert says Cabinet should be vaccinated now

Dr Cillian de Gascun said the Taoiseach should receive his vaccine before travel if he is to visit the US in March.

CABINET SHOULD BE vaccinated as soon as possible and the Taoiseach should receive his vaccine ahead of travel if he is to visit the US for St Patrick’s Day, one of the country’s leading health experts has said. 

A decision on whether Taoiseach Micheál Martin will travel to Washington for the annual White House visit will be made in the next two weeks. 

Today the Irish Independent reports that US officials will expect Martin to be vaccinated ahead of an in-person meeting with US President Joe Biden. 

Dr Cillian de Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory and a member of NPHET, told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that Martin should be vaccinated if he is to travel to the US in March. 

Dr de Gascun said the entire Cabinet should be vaccinated now, in parallel with the roll-out to healthcare workers and older people living in residential care facilities. 

“My personal opinion is that our government should be vaccinated,” he said.

“They’re key workers, they’re running the country so if they are essential to running the country they should be vaccinated.”

De Gascun said he can understand opposition to the idea, but “key decision makers in the setting of a pandemic need to be protected”.

Alan Kelly, leader of the Labour party, told RTÉ’s News at One that if the Taoiseach is invited to the US for St Patrick’s Day, it should be considered “because it’s such an important thing”. 

“In that scenario, him and maybe one or two officials could be vaccinated because I presume it would be something that would be required for such a trip,” he said.

“But outside of that I don’t believe other ministers should be vaccinated, there are too many people working on the frontline and other places who deserve to be vaccinated before them.”

A 12-month project

Dr de Gascun this morning also urged people to remain careful over the coming months, even if the current tight restrictions are eased as we move further into the spring and summer.

De Gascun said the coronavirus does not appear to be seasonal as the reproductive number did not fall below 1 during the summer. 

“We’ve seen all the challenges now with the case numbers around the world, challenges to vaccination and I think we need to be looking at a 12-month project, in essence,” he said.

He said “things will get better” in the summer, as more people are vaccinated, which should have an impact on transmission. 

“But we also know that it’s going to take time to get to that threshold of community level protection, which realistically, with the new variants, probably needs to be between 80 and 85%,” he added. 

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