The glory days of the State’s Covid-19 vaccination programme are behind us. Fewer than 38,000 people sought a first, second or third booster vaccination in the week to Sunday, February 6th.
The drop-off is striking. In the second last week of last year, more than 500,000 people came forward, as fears rose sharply about the threat of the Omicron wave, as experts tried to decide on the dangers it posed.
Nevertheless, the Health Service Executive is still slowly reaching into communities that have resisted: 1,319 people received a first vaccine dose on Wednesday of this week, while a further 1,662 came forward for a second shot.
The unvaccinated or partially vaccinated population, who are a minority, is primarily made up of younger people and children, and those who are ineligible, due to a Covid-19 infection or because the required time has not passed between their second dose and their booster.
Ireland has one of the highest Covid-19 vaccination rates in the world. More than 10 million jabs have been given since December 2020. Some 95 per cent of all adults have had two vaccine doses and Ireland has close to the highest rates of booster vaccinations in the European Union.
While the take-up among younger age groups is lower, the rates are still high: 76 per cent of those aged 12-17 and almost 89 per cent of 18-29 year olds have been vaccinated with two doses.
However, the take-up of third booster jabs among all age groups has not been as great, standing at 71 per cent. The younger the person, the less likely they are to have heeded pleas to go for a third jab.
Ninety-two per cent of those over 80 have had a third jab, but just 67 per cent of those in their 40s and 45 per cent of 18-29 year olds have. However, high Christmas Covid-19 infection rates may partly explain, as people must wait three months after infection before getting another jab.
On January 12th, 360,000 people were not eligible for a booster dose because they had had Covid-19 and a further 112,000 people were not yet eligible for a booster because it had been less than the required three months since their second dose.
Vaccine take-up among children aged between five and 11 has been slower than it was in the adult population. Just 22 per cent of this age group have received a first dose and only 9 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
Vaccines have proven their worth. Last January, prior to the vaccination campaign, 35-50 people were being hospitalised with Covid-19 for every 1,000 reported cases. By November’s fifth, and admittedly milder, wave, this dropped to 15 for every 1,000 cases.
And it fell again last month, to seven admissions per 1,000 cases, according to figures provided by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to the Government. However, the unvaccinated remain the most at risk if they get Covid.
In the middle of last month, about half of the confirmed Covid-19 cases in ICUs were unvaccinated. Of the cases in ICU who were fully vaccinated, just under half had not received a booster or third vaccine dose.