Nursing home residents, over 80s, and frontline workers to be offered booster vaccines in coming months

Nursing home residents, over 80s, and frontline workers to be offered booster vaccines in coming months

The Department of Health has written to the HSE to request a plan for autumn/winter immunisation programmes.  AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The Government has discussed a programme which will see the most vulnerable in society and frontline health workers receive booster vaccines in the coming months.

The National Immunisation Advisory Council (NIAC) today told the Government that those residents in nursing homes, people over 80, those with underlying conditions and frontline workers can start receiving their booster shots in autumn or winter.

The preliminary proposals will be updated in the coming weeks, a Government spokesperson said. 

The Department of Health has written to the HSE to request a plan for autumn/winter immunisation programmes. 

The HSE will be asked for its plan for booster shots of Covid vaccines.

The proposal will earmark vaccines for the most vulnerable groups first.

Cabinet has also given the green light for Ireland to join the EU's pre-purchase agreement for the Valneva vaccine which would begin delivery next year. 

However, a plan to purchase up to one million vaccines from Romania still has yet to be agreed upon, nearly a month after being announced. 

It is understood that negotiations are ongoing.

1,120 new cases of Covid-19 confirmed as vaccines set to be offered to 12-15-year-olds

Meanwhile, a further 1,120 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed this evening, as the Government gave the green light for vaccination to be extended to 12 - 15-year-olds. 

As of 8am today, 142 patients are being treated in Irish hospitalis with the virus, of which 27 are in ICU.

Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health, welcomed the advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, which has been approved by Government, to extend the vaccine rollout to those as young as 12.

"I encourage parents and guardians of those aged 12-15 years of age to register them for a vaccination as soon as the opportunity arises," he said. 

“The vaccination programme has received high uptake to date. I strongly urge anyone eligible to register for a vaccine to do so as soon as possible.”

It is understood vaccination for some 250,000 people in the 12 - 15 age cohort could begin as early as next week. 

To date, two mRNA vaccines have been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for use in this age group - Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. 

During clinical trials the estimate for efficacy of both vaccines was reported as 100% among this age cohort.

Over 20% of Covid cases in recent weeks has been in teenagers, meaning that the Government was keen to extend vaccination.

The HSE's portal will be updated to allow for parental consent.

Walk-in test centres to open this weekend

Micheál Martin is encouraging younger people to come forward to vaccination.
Micheál Martin is encouraging younger people to come forward to vaccination.

It comes as the Taoiseach stated that the first walk-in Covid-19 vaccination centres will open this weekend, and as those aged 16-18-year-olds were able to register for mRNA vaccines.

Ministers approved a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) this evening which differs from advice in the UK which states it should only be given to vulnerable children.

The NIAC advice strongly encourages those aged 12-15 years of age with underlying medical conditions, those living with a younger child with complex medical needs, or with an immunocompromised adult to accept vaccination at the earliest opportunity.

Separately, two walk-in vaccination centres have been confirmed in Co Kerry with the first taking place this Saturday at Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre.

The second will be held on Tuesday, August 3 at the Kerry Sports Academy in Tralee.

The clinics are open to anyone over the age of 18 requiring a first dose from 11am until 3pm.

Meanwhile, hospitals are stepping up their preparations for a further surge in Covid admissions, according to the head of a hospital group.

There are currently 141 patients in hospital with the virus, compared to just 63 two weeks ago. On 26 July, 25 Covid patients were in ICUs. That figure is up from 14 at the start of July.

Yesterday, 1,345 new cases of Covid were confirmed and the five-day moving average is just under 1,300.

Chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, says the "significant increase" over the past two weeks is particularly concerning.

Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal has 19 Covid patients - the highest in the country.

Tony Canavan, CEO of the Saolta Group which manages the hospital and six others, said preparations have been stepped up over the past 10 days.

Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal has 19 Covid patients - the highest in the country. File picture: North West Newspix
Letterkenny Hospital in Donegal has 19 Covid patients - the highest in the country. File picture: North West Newspix

"We are recognising the fact that we are now on the upward curve of the fourth wave to make sure than all of our sites are absolutely prepared for what might come in the doors to us," said Mr Canavan.

"We have in the last seven to 10 days seen an increase in the numbers in our hospitals in the north-west and in the west. That includes people in general hospital beds but now we are also starting to see an increase in the number of people in our ICUs."

Hospitals are struggling on a number of fronts as they try to cope with both Covid and non-Covid cases within the system, Mr Canavan said.

Significant attendances at emergency departments and a rise in the numbers waiting on trolleys is adding to the significant pressure faced by hospitals.

This morning, there were 317 patients waiting on trolleys around the country - 275 in the emergency department and 42 in wards.

According to the INMO, University Hospital Limerick had the highest number of people on trolleys with 51 followed by Cork University Hospital with 41.

Delivery of J&J vaccine not enough to meet demand 

A delivery of 26,000 Johnson and Johnson vaccines is due to arrive here later this week, according to the HSE.

It comes as pharmacies have almost run out of these Covid jabs after the rollout was extended to under-35s earlier this month.

They have administered nearly 150,000 so far including 50,000 in the past week alone.

Darragh O'Loughlin, from the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), says the shortage of supply is very concerning.

He says efforts need to be made to ensure that the current momentum is not lost.

"People have gotten used to the fact that they can get a vaccine in a local pharmacy and what we don't want is to go for a couple of weeks with no supply of vaccines into pharmacies and the vaccination services would then have to be suspended, then when vaccines start to become available again we are trying to restart that momentum and enthusiasm that is already there," said Mr O'Loughlin.

While the arrival of 26,000 doses is very welcome, Mr O'Loughlin said the doses will hardly put a dent in their waiting lists.

From today, 16 and 17 year olds can register for a Covid-19 vaccine.

 26 year old Emma Healy, Macroom, Co Cork getting her vaccine from chemist Barry Broderick at Broderick's Chemist on Barrack Street, Cork Picture: Dan Linehan
26 year old Emma Healy, Macroom, Co Cork getting her vaccine from chemist Barry Broderick at Broderick's Chemist on Barrack Street, Cork Picture: Dan Linehan

The HSE's online portal is opening for this age group, meaning they can sign up for a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

HSE chief executive, Paul Reid, says this generation has sacrificed a lot during the pandemic and it is their turn to get protected.

Tanya Ward, from the Children's Rights Alliance, welcomes the news saying access to the vaccine will minimise disruption in their education.

"Even though young people were going to school, if they did get Covid they did have 10-day or sometimes 14-day breaks in their education so I think that is worthwhile," said Ms Ward.

Schools will not have to deal with the same level of infection and closures once older teens have been vaccinated which Ms Ward says is vital as school closures have damaged all children.

The vaccine will also offer the younger cohort some peace of mind if they are visiting older relatives and will help them to avoid long Covid.

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