Paul Reid unaware of any proposal to change vaccination priority list
Colm Henry says risk for those in their 60s or even 50s is far higher than those in their 20s
HSE boss Paul Reid says all the medical and scientific advice is to administer the Covid-19 vaccine based on age. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
HSE director general Paul Reid has said he was unaware of any proposal to change the vaccination priority list.
Mr Reid said the HSE was continuing to work on the list that focuses on older cohorts and medically vulnerable groups
He was speaking in response to comments made by the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to The Irish Times in which he said consideration was being given to changing the focus of the vaccine priority list to allow people aged 18-30 to be inoculated ahead of older cohorts.
Mr Donnelly said he had asked officials to examine the possibility of revising the order of age cohorts scheduled to receive the vaccine so that younger people in the 18-30 age group would be vaccinated after those in their 60s.
Some senior officials fear a spike in cases among younger people once society begins to reopen, as under-30s are more likely than other age groups to socialise together in large numbers.
“I’ve asked the department to assess the case for vaccinating younger cohorts earlier, on the basis of reducing overall transmission as quickly as possible,” Mr Donnelly said.
On Saturday, senior officials at the Health Service Executive (HSE) stressed that prioritising Covid-19 vaccinations for people based on their age remains the best approach if the aim of the inoculation programme is “harm reduction”.
“That is where the highest risk is,” said Mr Reid. “That is the plan we are working through right now.”
He said if the Government changed tack, then the HSE would change its plans accordingly but added that “all the medical and scientific advice… is to administer it based on age”.
Both Mr Reid and HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said the vaccine programme was continuing to be rolled out as planned, with older people first in line, followed by younger age groups.
Dr Henry said “if the primary focus [of the rollout] is to reduce harm” then an approach which focused first on residential settings and then people over 70 and health conditions that puts them at greater risk of serious illness and death followed by older people in descending order was the approach to take.
“The risk for someone in their 60s or even 50s is substantially greater,” than for people in their 20s, he told RTÉ Radio’s Saturday with Katie Hannon programme.
On Saturday a spokesman for Mr Donnelly said “issues like this are constantly being reviewed to ensure the vaccination programme is as effective as possible, just like with dose intervals, distribution channels and so forth.”
He said any change to the vaccine rollout “would require a Government decision and no such memo is currently being prepared.
“Specifically regarding sequencing by age, Niac stated on March 29th that evidence on transmission is limited. Reduced transmission would be the primary rationale for moving to those in their late teens and early 20s.”
Ireland’s 14-day incidence of the disease now stands at 119 cases per 100,000 people nationally.
A further 11 deaths of Covid-19 patients were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Friday.
A further 420 confirmed cases of the disease were also reported, bringing to 242,819 the total number of cases in the Republic.