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Dr Ronan Glynn: Getting the Covid-19 vaccine is like wearing a seatbelt in a car

The majority of people who die on our roads are wearing a seatbelt – this does not mean seatbelts don’t work, Dr Glynn has argued.

Image: Sasko Lazarov?RollingNews.ie

DEPUTY CHIEF MEDICAL Officer Dr Ronan Glynn has urged people to get the Covid-19 vaccine and not to be put off by confirmed cases in those who are fully vaccinated – comparing it to wearing a seatbelt.

Responding to national and international commentary about Covid-19 cases in those who have been fully vaccinated, known as ‘breakthrough’ cases, Glynn said that “no vaccine is 100% protective”.

This means that a proportion of people who have been fully vaccinated will still get Covid-19, and possibly get very sick from it. “However, the individual risk of a severe illness or death is much lower than if they had not been vaccinated,” he explained.

A good way to think about this is in relation to road safety – the majority of people who die on our roads are wearing a safety belt. This does not mean that safety belts do not work.
It simply reflects the fact that the vast majority of people wear safety belts when driving and, unfortunately, some will be involved in accidents. However, for each individual, the risk of a severe injury or dying in that accident is much lower if they are wearing a safety belt.  

Dr Glynn said that when analysing data it should be placed in the context of the proportion of the whole population who have been vaccinated.  

As vaccination rates increase, there will be more people who are fully vaccinated and fewer unvaccinated people in Ireland’s population.

“As a result, the proportion of cases in vaccinated people will increase. For example, if all of the population were to get vaccinated then, clearly, 100% of Covid-19 cases would be in those who had been vaccinated. This does not mean that vaccines are not working.”

The protective effect of vaccines

Dr Glynn says that we can be “very confident” that the number of cases in vaccinated people will decrease over time, and that this is already seen in older age groups.

“For example, while 67% of cases in those who are 65 years and older in the last fortnight have been in people who reported having received two vaccines, the absolute number of cases in this age group (764) is much less than in previous ‘waves’.

A similar disease profile last February, for example, resulted in 3,379 cases over a two-week period in the same age group. 

He said that it’s also worth bearing in mind what we’re not seeing – the same increase in hospitalisations and deaths that came with previous waves.

“Of 169 adults admitted to ICU with Covid-19 since 1st April, just 6 had been fully vaccinated more than 14 days prior to their diagnosis.

“Of 155 adults who have died with Covid-19 since 1st April, just 7 had been fully vaccinated more than 14 days prior to their diagnosis.

Vaccines work. They are about 80% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 disease and they provide approximately 95% protection against hospitalisation – and this protection against severe disease holds up even in the context of the Delta variant.

“The Covid-19 vaccination programme has shown not only the best of scientific and medical endeavour, but also commendable solidarity by those who have come forward to receive a vaccine for the good of themselves and their wider community.”

For those who remain unsure about whether to get the Covid-19 vaccine, or who have questions about it, Dr Glynn urged people to get their information from their GP or pharmacist, look at the information available on hse.ie, or ask questions at HSELive.

There were 1,819 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. There are 206 patients in hospital with Covid-19, including 36 in ICU. 

As of last Wednesday, there has been a total of 5,044 deaths related to Covid-19 in Ireland.

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Over 6 million vaccine doses have been administered in Ireland to date: 3.4 million first doses (89% of adults, or 70% of the population) and 2.7 million second doses (78% of adults, or 60% of the population).

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