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CMO endorses NIAC recommendation for vaccine boosters for over 60s

Stephen Donnelly said he will work with the HSE to implement the recommendations as soon as possible.

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Updated Oct 19th 2021, 1:44 PM

CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER Dr Tony Holohan has endorsed a recommendation for booster Covid-19 vaccines to be offered to people aged 60 and over. 

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended that a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine be offered to all those aged 60 to 79 who have completed their primary course with any Covid-19 vaccine. 

The recommendation was confirmed at a meeting between party leaders, Micheál Martin, Leo Varadkar and Eamon Ryan last night where the three leaders met to discuss the latest advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

A booster dose should ideally be given six months (with a minimum interval of five months) following completion of a person’s primary vaccination schedule, the Department of Health has said. 

If a person in a group for whom a booster dose is recommended has had laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infection after a completed primary vaccine course, the booster dose should be delayed for at least six months after the Covid-19 infection was diagnosed, the Department said. 

“The NIAC have reviewed international evidence specifically relating to vaccine efficacy in older individuals that indicated that the protection provided by vaccines against symptomatic infection substantially decreases over time in this age group after six months,” Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said today. 

“The roll-out of the booster programme continues to rely on using vaccines which are safe and effective, and in doing so, means that we are continuing to prioritise our at-risk loved ones,” Donnelly said. 

“I will now work with my Department and the HSE to implement these recommendations as soon as possible.”

On 4 October, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded that booster doses may be considered for at least six months after the second dose for people aged 18 years and older. 

In line with NIAC advice, the majority of those aged over 70 will have previously received an mRNA vaccine, while those aged 60-69 will substantially have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

The available data on booster vaccination with an mRNA vaccine following a primary viral vector or mRNA vaccine course, show similar safety to that reported for the primary series. 

“NIAC will continue to examine new evidence regarding booster doses in other groups,” Donnelly said. 

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“It is important that we remember that vaccination, along with our continued adherence to the public health advice we are all so familiar with are the best ways we can protect ourselves, our loves ones and our country’s reopening,” he said. 

“If you display symptoms of Covid-19 like fever, dry cough and flu like symptom – isolate and get a test immediately. Continue to regularly wash hands, wear a mask when appropriate, keep your distance, open windows and ventilate indoor spaces, and choose outdoors where possible for meeting others.”

Responding the news of the booster shots for over 60s, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has called on the government to include healthcare workers in its plans. 

“It is disappointing that NIAC have not advised that healthcare workers receive the vaccine at this stage in the booster vaccine campaign. The government needs to step up now and make the right decision to include the healthcare workers in the next phase of the vaccination campaign,” INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said. 

The update on boosters comes as Taoiseach Micheál Martin this afternoon confirmed that a loosening of Covid-19 restrictions will see nightclubs free to open on Friday but that venues must enforce the use of vaccine certs and mask-wearing in some circumstances. 

With reporting by Cónal Thomas

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