Enough Covid-19 booster vaccines for everyone who needs it, says HSE

No shortage of additional doses for vulnerable, says Prof Martin Cormican

A syringe is filled with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photograph: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

A syringe is filled with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photograph: Jim Wilson/The New York Times

 

There is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines to provide additional doses and booster campaigns for the immunocompromised and vulnerable, the HSE lead for infection control has said.

Prof Martin Cormican told said that people did not have to contact the HSE about the matter as they would be contacted with an appointment.

“We have enough vaccines for everyone,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“Getting vaccinated is like getting your immune system ready for a big match against the virus,” he said. “For most of us our immune team is ready for action after the standard vaccine dose, for some people whose immune system is starting from a lower base, it’s weaker, they need an extra training session, an extra vaccine dose to get them ready for that match and that’s what the additional dose is about for the immunocompromised. It’s getting them ready for that if they meet the virus.

“The other part that’s happening is people who were match ready six months ago, but their immune system has gotten a bit out of condition over the last six months and another training session brings them back up to match ready.

“That’s the two things that are happening. One is getting people whose immune system was starting from a weak base, getting that match ready, and that means the extra vaccine dose is given two months at least after they had their standard course and then the other thing that we’re doing is people who were ready, but their immune system has gotten a bit out of condition and that’s a six-month interval to get them back up to where they were.”

Prof Cormican added that the immunocompromised group included everybody over the age of 12 who is immunocompromised, but those over 16 would be contacted first. “There will be a little delay for people 12-15, that’s because in many cases they haven’t reached the two month interval yet because they were vaccinated later.”

People aged 80 and over will be offered the booster dose whether they live in their own homes or in a nursing home. In most cases they will get the dose through their GP. For people aged 65 and over in nursing homes or other residential facilities the vaccination teams will come to them, he added.

International reports indicated that there would be a lot of the flu virus around, so it was important for people to get their flu vaccine, he said. This would be distributed as in previous years – through GPs and pharmacies.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has on Thursday been notified of 1,271 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

As of 8am on Thursday, 297 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 59 were in ICU.

On Wednesday, a further 1,453 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were recorded in the State.

As of 8am on Wednesday, 300 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 60 were in ICU.

There has been a total of 5,249 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in the Republic. This includes 40 deaths newly notified in the week since last Wednesday.

Risk of infection

The risk of experiencing a significant surge in cases, hospitalisations and mortality for the upcoming two months remains due to very high virus circulation, and fully vaccinated vulnerable individuals are still at risk of experiencing infection with severe outcomes.

So far, only 61 per cent of the total population in the EU/EEA have been fully vaccinated, and only three countries (Malta, Portugal, Iceland) have vaccinated more than 75 per cent of their total population. There is considerable variation in vaccine uptake across countries and within regions, resulting in large proportions of the EU/EEA population remaining susceptible to infection.

“Forecasts show that a combination of high vaccination coverage and effective contact reduction is crucial for reducing the risk of high Covid-19 burden on the healthcare systems this autumn,” says Andrea Ammon, ECDC director.

“Countries should continuously strive to increase their vaccination coverage in all eligible age groups, regardless of current vaccination coverage levels, to limit the burden of infections posed by the Delta variant. Depending on the local epidemiological situation, non-pharmaceutical interventions may also still be needed until the end of November.”

Countries with higher Covid-19 vaccination coverage in the total population are at a lower risk of experiencing a severe surge of cases, hospitalisations and mortality from now until the end of November unless there is a rapid decline of vaccine effectiveness due to waning immunity. The report also anticipates that greater proportions of SARS-CoV-2 cases amongst children will be reported in the coming months. Interventions such as physical distancing that prevent crowding as well as hygiene and improved ventilation will remain essential to prevent transmission in school settings.

Vaccination against seasonal influenza, particularly for vulnerable populations and healthcare workers, will be essential to mitigate the impact on individuals and on healthcare systems in the coming months from the potential co-circulation of the two viruses.

It remains crucial that Covid-19 surveillance systems can effectively monitor and report on Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths, in order to guide decisions on public health measures and to understand their impact.