Covid-19 vaccine boosters should be made available to people of all ages in addition to the priority groups of older and vulnerable people, a leading immunologist has said.
A second round of boosters is currently under way here for over-65s and immunocompromised people over-12 — meaning they can have four jabs. Everyone else over the age of 12 has been offered three shots.
The European Medicines Agency this week advised a second booster for all over-60s.
However, chair of comparative immunology at Trinity College Dublin, Professor Cliona O'Farrelly, said: “I suspect everyone should be getting a booster. Omicron is different, the immunity against one variant isn’t always as good as against another so therefore we need to boost it.”
She added it would “absolutely” benefit people of all ages, including young people.
Prof O’Farrelly, a member of the Covid-19 Advisory Group which replaced Nphet, said vaccines have done “an incredible job” protecting people against severe illness.
“People want to forget pandemics. Everybody has forgotten what Italy looked like at the beginning, I think it will be very useful to remind everyone.
"With the amount of Omicron that is around in Ireland at the moment, if we didn’t have the vaccines, that is what we would look like.”
She said that GPs have seen patients who are reluctant to take the Moderna vaccine after becoming used to Pfizer’s in previous rounds.
“It is much much more important that they get the booster as soon as they can,” she said.
In terms of new vaccines under development, she said a nasal vaccine, as is already available against the flu, would be useful, especially for people with needle phobias.
“I think it is psychological for a lot of people, especially young men. Any phlebotomist will tell you that young men are very prone to fainting,” she said, referring to staff who take bloods from patients.
Vaccine uptake among young children remains low, with 114,800 out of 480,000 five-11-year-olds vaccinated, just over 26%. A further 9,400 had one of the two shots.
“There is an awful lot of misinformation out there,” Prof O'Farrelly said.
“One of the things people heard about is a condition called myocarditis. There have been reports, true, of myocarditis in response to the vaccine but it is something like 90 per million cases.
"Whereas, myocarditis as a complication of viral infection in young children is as high as 4% or four in 100.”
On Monday there were 1,035 patients with Covid-19 in Irish hospitals, including 46 in ICU.