Nursing home staff who declined vaccines to be offered jabs again

Surplus shots in booster programme for residents ‘may be used’ for first doses

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly at LauraLynn Children’s Hospice on Monday as the charity announced significant plans for expansion. Photograph: Andres Poveda

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly at LauraLynn Children’s Hospice on Monday as the charity announced significant plans for expansion. Photograph: Andres Poveda

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Unvaccinated staff working in nursing homes will be offered excess shots left over after residents received their booster shots, with the top-up programme set to be launched next Monday.

Under the booster plan, residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes aged 65 and over will receive another shot in a three-week sweep of the facilities, according to plans distributed to the sector on Monday.

While staff in nursing homes are not scheduled to receive a booster, the guidelines state that when there are surplus vaccines at the end of the day, “this may be used to administer a first dose to [staff] in the case of previous vaccine hesitancy”.

Those aged 80 and over living in the community will also receive a booster shot, primarily through their GPs. The boosters are for those who received their second shot of their initial vaccination regime six months ago or more.

Those suffering from a severe immunocompromising condition are to be given a third shot – formally separate from the wider booster programme and not termed a “booster” – starting from the beginning of this week.

In all more than 250,000 people are likely to eligible for booster or third shots. The immunocompromised group is thought to number between 50,000 and 100,000, while there will be 40,000-50,000 residents in care facilities, and about another 180,000 over-80s living in the community.

Eligible

It comes as the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, said that children between the age of five and 11 are unlikely to be eligible for vaccination this year.

Hospital Report

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513 97

“We are looking at that at the moment, obviously. No recommendation has come in on that, the conversations that the chief medical officer and I have had is that we wouldn’t be expecting anything like that in this calendar year. We will keep that under very close review.”

The Minister also defended changes to the contact tracing system in schools. From Monday, there will be an end to contact tracing of asymptomatic cases in the classroom.

Under the changes, children under 13 who are close contacts of confirmed coronavirus cases in schools or childcare will no longer be required to self-isolate from September 27th if they are symptom-free.

Mr Donnelly said the decision was taken on foot of “the very best advice from the Nphet”.

“It is something that the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, and I have discussed at great length,” he said, adding that “the recommendation is coming because of such encouraging results from the schools”.

The Minister also addressed the issue of false information circulating about Covid-19 and vaccines, saying that some people were peddling “very dangerous misinformation” but that the high vaccination take-up rate was proof that people in Ireland had “absolutely no time for it”.

Targeted

Mr Donnelly said that people were being targeted online with “lies” and he urged anybody who was concerned to go to “official sources” for information about the disease and vaccine.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane said that people who were concerned about the vaccine should seek advice from the experts and speak to their GPs.

Asked about 4 per cent of vaccine refusals among staff at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, Mr Cullinane said that vaccine take-up overall has been “really high” but that the HSE should run a targeted campaign at people “who might be unduly influenced by misinformation”.

“That’s something I would encourage to see if we can get to even higher levels of the vaccinations,” he said.

“We need to be sending the message that had it not been for those people who got vaccinated, we would not be in a position to reopen society as quickly as we have been able to.”