Vaccines not a ‘magic shield’ against Covid-19 infection - De Gascun

Nphet hopes to be in position to advise Government to further ease restrictions in about six weeks

Vaccines are not "a magic shield" against Covid-19 infection and must form part of a series of protections, Dr Cillian De Gascun has said.

The director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), of which he is a member, hopes to be in a position to advise Government to further ease restrictions in about six weeks.

“The key message for us to try and get out to the public is that the vaccines, while they’re really effective, they’re not a magic shield against this infection,” he said.

“We’ve already seen a number of infections in vaccinated individuals. Thankfully it’s a small number.


“In isolation, against this transmissible virus, it’s unlikely to be sufficient. So we really want people to protect themselves, and continue to behave in a safe manner. The vaccine is really effective, but it should still be considered as just one measure amongst a number.”

Dr De Gascun was speaking to Drivetime on RTÉ Radio One following Wednesday’s Nphet meeting. He said people who are unvaccinated “shouldn’t be putting themselves in situations where they’re in crowded, congested settings”.

“For people who have been vaccinated, if they are in a setting that they believe is high risk, they should continue to wear masks,” he said.

“And equally, when they’re out and about, they should maintain physical distancing. Now, what we would hope to see is that as more and more people get vaccinated, individuals will obviously be able to have people over to their homes.

“They’ll obviously be able to have social events, and outdoor gatherings will increase in number as more and more of society is protected, but just because you’ve had the vaccine doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re invincible.”

The current spike in cases of Covid-19 is expected to plateau within the next six weeks before numbers begin to fall, but people must continue to wear masks and socially distance in risky settings even if they are fully vaccinated, he said.

“It’s probably early to predict definitively what’s going to happen in one or two months, but we certainly are confident, or optimistic at least, that within the next four to six weeks we will see a plateauing of the case numbers from this wave.”

“The case numbers will decline and there’ll be a knock on effect through our hospital system.

“I think the concern for us at the moment is that we know there’s a lag between case numbers and between hospitalisations and admissions to intensive care so there’s there’s still a large number of cases that need to work their way through the system.”

He said Nphet hopes to be in a position to advise the Government to further ease restrictions in about six weeks.

“That’s the time when we will be in a position to progressively ease restrictions, because people, the vast majority of the eligible population, will be protected at that stage,” he said.

On schools, he said the current advice was that masks will not be necessary for students or teachers.

“Our guidance is not that that would be considered because we don’t necessarily think that that’s required, and we think there are challenges to that for children in relation to their educational experience and their ability to interact with others,” he said.

“We haven’t yet seen Delta in the school setting, but if we look at what have happened previously with Alpha, we know school openings and school closures have not significantly increased the incidence of disease in that five to 18 year old age category.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter