Nursing home residents, over-80s, frontline health workers set to be offered Covid-19 booster first

Vulnerable groups, including those with underlying medical conditions, to be given shot in autumn or winter

Extension of the vaccination programme to the younger age group will be ‘a significant advantage’ for the return to school. File photograph: Getty

Extension of the vaccination programme to the younger age group will be ‘a significant advantage’ for the return to school. File photograph: Getty

 

Residents of nursing homes, people aged over 80 and frontline healthcare workers will be the first to be offered Covid-19 booster shots in the coming months, under plans considered by Cabinet.

The Cabinet discussed a planned campaign of booster shots at its meeting on Tuesday.

Fresh advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) to Government recommended the use of booster shots for vulnerable groups first.

This will include people with underlying medical conditions.

The shots will likely be given in the autumn or winter, a Government spokesman said.

The Government also discussed plans to add the Valneva Covid-19 vaccine to the current list of available vaccines. The French shot has been dubbed a “variant proof” option that European capitals are increasingly interested in.

The Cabinet has decided to increase the limit of number of guests permitted at a wedding to 100 from August 5th and to extended coronavirus vaccines to children aged between 12 and 15 years of age.

Several Ministers supported the decision around wedding parties in light of the accelerated pace of the vaccination campaign with about 70 per cent of adults now vaccinated fully.

The Cabinet has also agreed to allow up to 50 people to attend baptisms.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney confirmed that the vaccination programme will be extended to the 12- to 15-year-old cohort. The decision was made by the Cabinet on the basis of advice from National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), he told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

The extension of the vaccination programme to the younger age group will be “a significant advantage” for the return to school, he added and in stopping the spread of the Delta variant.

The consent of parents will be needed and the Government intends to roll out an information campaign.

Senior Coalition sources said Niac opted to recommend vaccinations for all children between 12 and 15 rather than just vulnerable juveniles, after considering the balance of risk between both options.

The vaccination campaign for this age cohort will start “as soon as possible”.

It is understood 12- to 15-year-olds could be offered an appointment as early as next week, once the Health Service Executive puts a plan to vaccinate this age cohort into operation.

The HSE will spend several days this week making arrangements to accommodate the new cohort. This will involve allowing parents to register their child on the portal and accompany them to the relevant vaccinations centres.

Separately, the HSE will also organise walk-in clinics to vaccination centres this weekend, sources confirmed, although not for this age group.

‘Robust trial’

Earlier, immunovirologist Prof Liam Fanning called on all parents and guardians to encourage children aged 12 to 15 to be vaccinated. Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, Prof Fanning said that trials in Israel had shown good clinical efficacy of the vaccine in that age cohort with an 80-100 per cent measure of protection. “It was a robust trial.”

The level of prioritisation for the vulnerable in that age group would be a matter for Niac, he said. But he added that he would encourage all parents and guardians to get children to have the vaccine.

“They do need to be vaccinated, there is still the spectre of long Covid.”

Ireland is a society of nuclear families and children could be a repository for the virus, said Prof Fanning. Having teenagers vaccinated would give a more robust protection for education, he added.

Any parents or guardians with concerns about the vaccine should discuss the risks and the benefits, said Prof Fanning. He added that risks are “very rare” and contracting coronavirus would be much more serious.