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booster shot

More than 215,000 booster appointments missed in the last two weeks, Taoiseach tells Dáil

Questions over the actual number of booster ‘no-shows’ have been raised in recent weeks due to issues with the booking system.

MORE THAN 215,000 appointments for Covid-19 booster shots were missed in the last two weeks, according to Taoiseach Micheal Martin. 

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, he said there is not the same urgency among the public to get the third dose compared with the first and second jab.

Martin said that in the week beginning November 22, 208,000 appointments were made, but about 80,000 people turned up to receive their booster shot.

Last week 180,000 appointments were made, but 93,000 people turned up.

“The most important collective message we as a House can give to people today is to take your booster vaccine when you’re offered it,” Martin said.

“Vaccination is protecting people more than anything else, against severe illness, against hospitalisation and against admission to ICUs.

“The booster vaccination has been shown to produce very, very strong antibody responses and are likely to provide protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death from most variants, including Delta and Omicron.

“So the same urgency doesn’t seem to be there in terms of availing of the option to take the booster as was there when we offered the first dose and the second dose.

“If you look at the over-75 group, people have taken up the offer. In that group, where people have taken up the offer of a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine in high numbers, we are seeing significant reduction in the incidence of disease.

“So it does work, the booster will have a really significant impact on Delta, I can’t stress that enough.”

Last month when the booster roll out began, there were calls for clarity around what was causing Covid-19 vaccine booster appointments to have “no-show” rates of up to 50%

The issue of people not turning up to booster appointments was raised at a HSE operational update with CEO Paul Reid.

At the time, he said the no show rates at some centres was varying from 25 to 50%.

However, in the aftermath of the press conference reports of people being unable to cancel appointments quickly surfaced on social media.

Several people who have already received their booster jab told The Journal that they were unable to cancel unneeded appointments after being contacted by the HSE.

The problem was reported for appointments at vaccine centres around Ireland and people had difficulties trying to contact the HSE online and via the phone.

When asked about its method for tracking booster appointments the HSE said records of vaccine dose reconciliation are maintained at the vaccination site. 

“This measure will ensure everyone who is offered a booster vaccine gets it as soon as possible as we move through the various stages of the vaccine programme,” it said.

The health service is encouraging people to use this form to cancel their booster appointment if they have already got the additional jab.

It says people can also reschedule appointments by replying with the word “new” to the text message they receive from the HSE.

In a statement sent to The Journal this evening, the HSE said “in comparison to the primary vaccination programme it is clear that it is taking longer to vaccinate people in some cohorts”.

“This is evident in lower attendance rates at both scheduled clinics, and at our walk in clinics.

“Even allowing for acknowledged issues with notification across the different vaccination systems, it is evident that it is taking longer for people to attend for the booster vaccination,” said a spokesperson for the HSE.

“We are trying to encourage people to take their appointment when it is offered if at all possible, if not to let the HSE know if you do not wish to take up your appointment or  attend a walk in service at either a vaccination centre or a pharmacy,” said the statement.

The HSE said NIAC have set out the priority cohorts for administration of the booster programme and the HSE are working through these cohorts.

“We are also factoring in the eligibility criteria set out by NIAC and this means we are operating a lot of the cohorts in parallel in order to maintain momentum. We can only vaccinate people when we have reached their cohorts, based on priorities and when they have become eligible,” said the HSE. 

Explaining why some people may be getting multiple offers for appointments, the HSE said:

“In order to give people maximum opportunity to get a booster and to use all capacity in the programme we are using vaccination centres, GP’s and pharmacies as vaccination channels. This can mean that people will occasionally get appointments from multiple sources, or indeed after already been vaccinated. While steps have been taken to minimise this, it is inevitable this will occur but our priority is to ensure we give people maximum choices to get vaccinated.”

The one millionth booster shot was administered in the country today, according to the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, who said Ireland has the highest primary vaccination rate (93%) among adults in the EU and the fourth highest rate of booster administration.

With reporting by Christina Finn

Press Association
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