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New Omicron-specific vaccines to be rolled out as boosters from next month, Health Minister says

Anyone who is eligible for both a flu vaccine and a Covid booster vaccine can receive them at the same time from next month.

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MINISTER FOR HEALTH Stephen Donnelly has announced that new Covid-19 vaccine boosters which protect against strains of the Omicron variant will be rolled out from next month. 

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended authorised adapted bivalent vaccines for all those aged 12 years and older who are eligible for a booster vaccination.

The new boosters include components of the original virus strain of Sars-CoV-2 and the Omicron variant.

Donnelly said he accepted recommendations made by NIAC to the interim Chief Medical Officer (iCMO) Professor Breda Smyth, who has endorsed these recommendations.

First booster doses continue to be offered to people aged 12 and older and people aged 5 to 11 with a weak immune system who have yet to receive one.

Second boosters are being offered to the following:

  • People aged 50 to 64
  • People aged over 12 who are at high risk of severe illness
  • People aged over 12 in a long-term care facility
  • Healthcare workers
  • Pregnant women (over 16 weeks)

The HSE will include adapted bivalent booster vaccines in the Vaccination Programme from early next month, alongside the commencement of the flu vaccine programme. 

Anyone who is eligible for both a flu vaccine and a Covid booster vaccine can receive them at the same time from participating GPs and pharmacies from next month once its been at least four months since their last Covid-19 vaccine or infection. 

Donnelly said the development of the new vaccines represents “an important new step” in the country’s approach to combating the virus and they will play a significant role in the autumn/winter vaccination campaign.

“Officials in my Department have secured access to adapted bivalent vaccines through participation (in partnership with the European Commission and other Member States), in the EU’s COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy,” he said.

“Doses of bivalent adapted vaccines have already been delivered to Ireland thanks to provisions of Purchase Agreements negotiated by the Commission as part of the EU’s COVID Strategy.”

Smyth said the recommendation made by NIAC is “a welcome update that will offer continued protection to those most vulnerable to severe illness from SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

“The best vaccine for you is the one you are offered at the time you are offered it, and I want to reassure people that all COVID-19 vaccines, existing mRNA vaccines and adapted bivalent vaccines, are remarkably effective and offer good protection against the worst impacts of COVID-19,” she said.

“It is really important that anyone yet to receive any course of COVID-19 vaccine does so as soon as possible and that anyone for whom a booster dose is recommended makes arrangements to receive that booster.”

People who are eligible for a booster vaccine can book an appointment online for a HSE vaccination clinic or check with participating GPs and pharmacies. 

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About the author:

Jane Moore

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