Infection rate among healthcare staff moving in 'wrong direction' as INMO calls for booster doses

More than 1,800 healthcare workers are currently on Covid-related leave.

THE IRISH NURSES AND Midwives Organisation (INMO) is concerned that the Covid-19 infection rate among healthcare workers is moving in the “wrong direction”.

The union has renewed its call for booster vaccines against the virus to be rolled out to frontline staff.

At a briefing on Thursday, the HSE said that over 1,800 healthcare workers are out on Covid-related leave.

Following the details on the number of healthcare staff out of work, INMO has written to the Chief Medical Officer and the chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) reiterating its call for vaccine boosters.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said the “level of infection rate of healthcare workers is going in the wrong direction” and that it is “especially concerning given the time of year”.

Ní Sheaghdha said the “reported workplace outbreaks are highest in workplaces that are described as health care settings including acute hospitals” and “clearly this increases the risks for those working in these environments”.

“From the HPSC figures published last Friday in the last month the number of Covid infections has increased amongst healthcare workers, with nurses and midwives representing the highest cohort of those infected. In the last month over 371 nurses and midwives were infected.

“Nurses and midwives are now exhausted from working since February 2020 in this pressurised environment, wearing PPE and in many instances unable to avail of annual leave due to high absence levels,” she said.

We know exhaustion adds to their vulnerability and coupled with exposure to very high levels of this virus in their workplace, it is now imperative that they are afforded the maximum protections available including booster vaccines.

“As supply is not an issue, thankfully, and the HSE advise that vaccinators are available to administer, we must insist that frontline HCWs are prioritised for an mRNA vaccine booster now.”

Currently, booster vaccines are available to people over the age of 80 or over-65s who are living in long-term residential care.

People who are immunocompromised due to specific health conditions or receiving particular treatments may also be given a booster dose, which are being recommended by hospitals on an individual basis.

Niac is responsible for issuing advice on the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, including additional doses.

At the HSE briefing earlier this week, The Journal asked HSE chief executive Paul Reid if the HSE wants to see booster vaccines for healthcare workers.

“Yes, I mean, it’s a particular cause for concern for myself… the concern being if it’s highly transmissible in the community, it can ultimately get to our healthcare workers but also into our healthcare settings,” Reid said.

“So yes, I’d like to see it,” he said.

He said the HSE are “not the experts in terms of the evidence, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee are”, but that he “would have concern for healthcare workers”.

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