The Irish Times view on Covid-19 vaccination: shoring up the defence

A new vaccination campaign comes as concerns mount about wider vaccine complacency

While second Covid-19 booster jabs have been available for some time, only 9 per cent of the general population have so far taken them. The take-up rate ranges from two to 19 per cent, although among over-60s it is around 60 per cent.

From this week the vaccinations will again begin to be rolled out systematically across the country, starting with the over-60s and pregnant women. Those groups are being invited to sign up for appointments with the HSE or participating GPs and chemists. Those who had Covid recently, however, are required to wait four months before they can get their booster.

The HSE, which warns that there is a waning of immunity against infection from Covid-19 over time, advises the public to get the jab ahead of the winter when we may see seasonal influenza and respiratory viruses co-circulating with the virus. Those aged 50-64, and people with long-term health conditions, will also be offered boosters in the coming weeks. Separately, an antiviral pill, Paxlovid, that can prevent people becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 is to be made more widely available here. The pill is being made available to vaccinated people over 75, and over-65s with additional risks. These include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and lung disease.

The new vaccination campaign comes as concerns mount about wider vaccine complacency, in part fed by misinformation about Covid-19 vaccination. “People sometimes go ‘oh well, everyone else is vaccinated, I don’t need to’,” warns Dr Barbara Gormley of DCU, “but, say for measles, you need that 95 per cent uptake to get protective, endemic immunity.” Unicef figures show that worldwide in 2021, 24.7 million children missed their first dose of measles vaccine, and a further 14.7 million did not get the essential second dose. Overall routine childhood vaccinations are down six million yearly on pre-pandemic times. Unicef describes the drop in coverage as the largest sustained backslide in childhood vaccination in a generation, taking coverage rates back to levels not seen since the early 2000s.