booster programme

HSE says GPs can offer booster shots to over 16s

However, they have been told to continue to prioritise older and more vulnerable patients.

LAST UPDATE | Dec 15th 2021, 9:32 PM

THE HSE HAS advised GPs that they can start administering Covid-19 booster vaccines to younger age cohorts once those aged over 50 and more vulnerable patients have received a booster.

A spokesperson for the HSE told The Journal that the health service has advised GPs that they should continue to prioritise people aged 50-64, residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, people aged 16 and over with underlying health conditions and healthcare workers. 

They said that once these groups receive a booster, they can start administering booster vaccines to all pregnant women aged 16 and older, people aged 40-49 and people aged 16-39 in descending order by age cohorts in line with guidance from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).

Those aged 16 to 39 who received a Janssen vaccine as their primary vaccine can be offered a booster dose irrespective of their age after a minimum three-month interval.

It was initially reported that pharmacies would also be offering boosters to the younger age cohorts. 

However, in a clarification this evening, the HSE confirmed that pharmacies are currently only offering booster jabs to those aged over 50, people with underlying conditions, healthcare workers and pregnant women. 

A HSE spokesperson said: “A draft guidance document was issued to our IPU colleagues seeking to advise them of new ways to accelerate the programme. It was not our intention to extend to other cohorts outside of the current Operational Plan for Pharmacies.”

Those eligible can now book an appointment to receive a booster at their chosen pharmacy. A list of participating pharmacies is available on the HSE website.

Speaking outside Government buildings this evening, the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “While they should still prioritise according to the NIAC high risk groups, GPs now have latitude to vaccinate all of their patients if they have that capacity.”

He also told the Six One News that people should wait to be contacted by their GP for an appointment.

“We’re asking people not to contact the GPs so that they’re not flooded. The GPs, where they have capacity, will contact their patients.”

Chair of the Irish Medical Organisation’s GP committee Dr Denis McCauley told RTÉ’s News at One this afternoon that GPs have been asked to try “as much as we can” to give as many boosters as possible over the next four weeks. 

“We’re not going to get involved with routine care, we’ll try as much as possible on each day to try and deal with urgent cases but we’re going to be primarily directing ourselves with rolling out the booster campaign,” he said. 

He said GPs “are really tired but very willing” to step up to administer boosters, and urged the public to “please bear with us” over the next number of weeks. 

He also urged the public to put receiving a booster “on your Christmas list”, saying it’s the best way people can protect themselves and the rest of the country. 

Speaking to Morning Ireland, Mary Favier, Covid advisor to the Irish College of General Practitioners, said that GPs will be working to double the number of booster vaccines they will administer in the coming weeks, but this will be at the expense of normal GP services.

“GPs are delivering a significant number of booster vaccinations already, between 75,000 and 85,000 a week, but we’re now going to try and double that in the next one, two and three weeks with an all-out push to put booster jabs in people’s arms,” she said.

She said that non-essential work is being pushed back until the new year.

We’re going to try and delay all non-essential, non-immediate work until the New Year, well into the New Year and divert all but urgent work into giving boosters.

When asked whether or people should visit GPs, Favier said that they should evaluate whether or not it could wait until the New Year, but that people should not ignore significant or worrying concerns.

“We would ask people not to ignore significant things, not to ignore worrying concerns, to still make contact. We might then talk to you, triage it and put it off until the new year.

“GPs will be trying to do a lot of this vaccination during routine hours, but we’ll be doing out of hours, we’ll be doing weekends.”

“It’s going to put a significant surge into the out of hours services, like the on-call services and unfortunately into the emergency departments… if in doubt, seek advice.”

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