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Impact of earlier vaccination for younger people to be assessed by health officials

The Health Minister has asked officials to determine if vaccinating younger people sooner would impact transmission.

Image: Shutterstock/Sabrina Bracher

Updated Apr 17th 2021, 1:50 PM

THE HEALTH MINISTER has asked for an assessment of whether vaccinating younger people at an earlier point would impact Covid-19 transmission.

Currently, the vaccine rollout works on the basis of age, meaning younger people will be vaccinated after older age groups. 

A spokesperson for Minister Stephen Donnelly said an assessment of vaccinating younger people sooner has been requested to “see if such a move would have any impact on transmission”. 

The Irish Times first reported today that this will be examined by the Department of Health. 

A government spokesperson has said “there is no change to the official Government policy on the vaccine priority list to focus on people aged 18-30″. 

Labour leader Alan Kelly has criticised Minister Donnelly for causing “confusion overnight” by his comments.

“He needs to stick to the plan on vaccine roll out otherwise he’s undermining his own Government’s arguments for the age-based vaccine roll out in the first place,” said Kelly.

Before last month, the vaccine rollout was to progress by job category such as essential workers and ‘people in occupations important to the functioning of society’, alongside age categories.

Once vulnerable people are vaccinated, this will now transition fully to an age-based system.

The booking portal for people aged 65 to 69 opened this week on a gradual basis. People aged 67 can now register for their vaccine from this morning either online or over the phone

The government previously said that if evidence shows vaccination prevents Covid-19 transmission, then those aged 18-34 should be prioritised for vaccination “due to their increased level of social contact and role in transmission”. 

Last month, the Taoiseach Michéal Martin said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee made “clear that age, from a clinical perspective, is the better way” to progress the vaccine rollout.

“It also will accelerate and simplify the rollout of the vaccination programme from an operational perspective,” Martin added. 

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“Older age cohorts in different professions will get vaccinated more quickly than they might have.” 

He said the rationale from NIAC was clear and “quite strong”. He also said the original programme could have been delayed as it was difficult to identify people in the various job groups. 

The deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said this change will result in those at most risk of severe outcomes or death receiving vaccines as soon as possible. 

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