A national discussion on mandatory vaccination is needed, Prof of Immunovirology at University College Cork, Liam Fanning, has said.
“The idea needs to be fleshed out. It is worth having the discussion,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.
Minutes of a meeting of Nphet on December 16th reveal that mandatory vaccination was considered by the team.
"It was noted that the Nphet will discuss the issue of mandatory vaccination at a later date and this discussion will be facilitated by a forthcoming paper from the Department of Health on the relevant ethical and legal considerations pertaining to this topic."
Prof Fanning pointed out that there was already mandatory vaccination (for other diseases) "in some form" in healthcare settings, so it was "not correct" to say that it was not already in place.
“Some professions have to have the Hepatitis vaccine,” he said, while visitors to certain countries also needed vaccines against tropical diseases which indicated that mandatory vaccination was acceptable in certain circumstances. Prof Fanning said he could see mandatory vaccination being put in place for patient-facing or public-engagement professions.
Prof Fanning also called for booster certs to be required for social activity and hospitality as this would protect staff and customers as the booster shortened the window during which they were likely to be infectious.
HSE chief executive Paul Reid has said it was his personal view that a voluntary vaccination system was better than a mandatory system.
The take up of the vaccine in Ireland had been fantastic, he told Newstalk Breakfast. "It is always better off working with people's hearts and minds."
He also said the issue of mandatory vaccination was a policy matter for the Government to decide, which they would do on the basis of advice from Nphet.
There were “pros and cons” to mandatory vaccination, the situation was being looked at by the Department and careful consideration will be given to it.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Prof Karina Butler of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) said she did not think “general” mandatory vaccination would be considered, but it may be necessary in some situations such as healthcare where it is already necessary to get some vaccines.
Meanwhile, Irish consultants have become involved in a UK online campaign to support the vaccination programmes.
The British government has decided that all NHS staff in England who have direct contact with patients must have had their first dose of a Covid vaccine by February 3rd or risk losing their job at the end of March.
The online comments are in response to an exchange between consultant anaesthetist Dr Steve James and British health secretary Sajid Javid which was captured on Sky News.
“I’ve had Covid at some point, I’ve got antibodies, and I’ve been working on Covid ITUs since the beginning; I have not had a vaccination, I do not want to have a vaccination. The vaccine is reducing transmission only for about eight weeks with Delta.
“With Omicron it’s probably less. And for that I would be dismissed if I don’t have a vaccine? The science isn’t strong enough.”
Professor Michael O’Leary, a consultant gynaecologist and oncologist based in Galway tweeted in response: “I have had 2 vaccines & a booster. It is the single most important thing I can do to avoid being admitted to ICU or dying from Covid. And it will protect both my family and my patients.”
Dr Naomh Gallagher, who is based in Belfast, tweeted: "I'm a pregnant epidemiologist & public health registrar, and I'm married to a consultant anaesthetist. We're both triple vaccinated as we believe that vaccines are the best way to protect ourselves, our families, our friends, our colleagues, and our patients. #VaccinesWork."