The Irish Times view on the vaccination campaign: the job is not yet done

There are real questions about the wisdom of the Government’s decision to end the requirement for vaccine certs for access to indoor events and hospitality

The remarkable success of the national Covid-19 vaccination campaign was instrumental in allowing the Government to ease nearly all restrictions on social and economic life last week. Some 95 per cent of adults have completed their primary vaccine course and 80 per cent of those who are eligible having received a booster shot. Only two European states have achieved wider booster coverage.

While those figures show very high uptake rates, specific gaps in the rollout still require close attention. First, the proportion of younger people taking the booster is relatively low. In the 18-49 age group, Cabinet was told last week, estimated takeup is between 40 per cent and 66 per cent. Second, just under a quarter of five- to 11-year-olds have registered to date for the children’s vaccine. The issue is compounded by reports from some GPs of significant numbers of no-shows for vaccine appointments, which will result in even larger numbers of doses expiring in the coming weeks. Some 100,000 doses had to be destroyed in the last week alone amid slowing public demand.

All of this raises legitimate questions about the wisdom of the Government’s decision last Friday to end the requirement for vaccine certs for access to indoor events and hospitality. In addition to protecting people and offering reassurance to the vaccinated, the cert was a very useful tool in encouraging people to take the vaccine. Now, being unvaccinated is no longer an impediment to one’s social life, removing one of the most compelling incentives for young people in particular. That in turn makes the pitch at the heart of the public information campaign harder to make.

Hospital Report

One of the lessons of the pandemic has been the importance of preparing for the next battle even while fighting the current one. The current epidemiological situation may have provided a rationale for ending the vaccine cert requirement, but by doing so the Government may have weakened the country’s ability to resist the pressure that a new variant might bring – all while making its vaccine pitch harder to sell to the public.