The number of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes more than doubled last week, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
There were 13 outbreaks in the sector, up from six the previous week, but well down on the 38 outbreaks recorded in mid-July. The outbreaks varied in size from two to 12 cases.
Hospital outbreaks reduced in number from seven to two, with one involving 16 cases. The number of outbreaks in community hospitals and long-stay units fell from five to two.
Overall, the HPSC said it was notified of 28 Covid-19 outbreaks last week, an increase of four on the previous week despite the fact that there was a bank holiday in the week.
The number of cases confirmed by PCR tests fell 23 per cent last week, while the number of notified positives from antigen tests was some 4 per cent lower. There were 218 confirmed cases among healthcare workers.
The highest rates of confirmed cases were in counties Louth, Sligo and Kerry, with the lowest figures recorded in Wexford, Waterford and Kildare.
The BA.5 variant of Covid-19 remains dominant in Ireland, accounting for 93.5 per cent of genomically sequenced samples, according to a separate HPSC report. The related BA.4, which can also evade vaccine protection, accounted for the rest of the sequenced samples.
No cases of the BA2.75 subvariant — nicknamed “Centaur” on social media and recently classified by the European Centre for Disease Control as being of concern — have yet been detected in Ireland, the HPSC added.
According to the Department of Health, there were 352 patients with Covid-19 in hospital on Thursday, up from 349 the previous day. This included 24 people being treated in intensive care units, down two.
Meanwhile, a large study has found that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against Covid-19 are safe to use in pregnancy. The research, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, says pregnant women experience lower rates of health events after vaccination than similarly-aged, vaccinated people who are not pregnant.
Serious health events were rare in all groups, whether vaccinated or pregnant, or not, and there was no significant difference in the miscarriage/stillbirth rate between vaccinated and unvaccinated women, it found.
The study, from the Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network, was the first to look at the side effects of mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) in vaccinated pregnant women, unvaccinated pregnant women and a vaccinated non-pregnant group. Almost 200,000 women across Canada completed a first survey and almost 100,000 a second between December 2020 and last November.
Researchers found 4 per cent of pregnant females reported a significant health event - one that caused them to miss work or school, stop daily activities or require medical consultation - within seven days after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, and 7.3 per cent after dose two.
The most common significant health events after dose two in pregnant women were a general feeling of being unwell, headache/migraine and respiratory tract infection. In comparison, 3.2 per-cent of pregnant unvaccinated participants reported similar events in the seven days prior to survey completion.
In the vaccinated non-pregnant control group, 6.3 per cent reported a significant health event in the week after dose one and 11.3 per cent after dose two.
Serious health events - defined as an emergency department visit or hospitalisation - were under 1 per cent and occurred at similar rates in vaccinated pregnant women, vaccinated non-pregnant people and unvaccinated controls after dose one and dose two.
Some 2.1 per cent of unvaccinated pregnant women and 1.5 of vaccinated pregnant women experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth within seven days after dose one of any mRNA vaccine. The authors say the data provide reassuring evidence that Covid-19 mRNA vaccines are safe in pregnancy.