State’s healthcare workers ‘unlikely’ to need Covid-19 booster shots

Majority of staff in system have adequate immune response, says infectious disease expert

At the public health lecture it was said that the State has such a high vaccination rate, the virus impact on health and society will be reduced. File photograph: Getty

At the public health lecture it was said that the State has such a high vaccination rate, the virus impact on health and society will be reduced. File photograph: Getty

 

It is unlikely that healthcare workers in Ireland will need annual booster shots for Covid-19, an expert in infectious diseases has said.

“Most healthcare workers have adequate immune systems and it is unlikely they will need serial boosters [like the annual flu vaccine] as Covid doesn’t change at the same rate flu does,” said Eoghan De Barra, consultant in infectious diseases at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. “Studies on other coronaviruses show immunity to last for two to three years.”

Dr De Barra said that as the State has such a high vaccination rate, the impact of the virus on health and society will be reduced.

“We are doing very well here with people following the public health advice. But to ensure the end of this pandemic, everyone in the world will have to be vaccinated and many countries have not near high enough levels of vaccination yet.”

Fidelma Fitzpatrick, consultant microbiologist at Beaumont Hospital, agreed that the next task was to address vaccine inequity.

“Like a team, we are only as strong as the weakest link and our focus will have to turn to tackling vaccine inequity in the world because what happens in other countries will impact on us.”

Dr De Barra and Prof Fitzpatrick were speaking at a virtual public health lecture on long Covid, breakthrough infections and booster vaccines on Tuesday, organised by the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.

Kilian McGrogan, a GP at the Mercer Medical Centre, Dublin, said that while it was still unclear what caused long Covid, studies have shown it affects 1 to 2 per cent of people in their 20s and up to 5 per cent of people in their 60s.

“It’s a collection of symptoms in somebody who has had Covid which persist for more than 12 weeks. The common symptoms are fatigue, breathlessness, brain fog, mood change and aches and pains which can come and go,” he said.

Long Covid

Dr McGrogan advised people with these symptoms to visit their GP to exclude other causes such as anaemia, underactive thyroid, early diabetes or depression.

“It’s important that other conditions are excluded before somebody is labelled as having long Covid. Diagnosis and empathy with patients are important and the vast majority of patients will make a full recovery,” she said.

Dr De Barra said that there were ways we can continue to improve our health beyond the pandemic.

“People with chronic respiratory conditions had a very good winter because of the interventions of wearing masks, washing hands and staying away from people who are ill. People should stay away from work if they are feeling sick so they don’t pass on infections to their colleagues.”