Niac chair: 'High level of unvaccinated is real elephant in the room'

It could be more beneficial to wait longer and to help instead with the equity of distributing vaccines on a global basis, she said
Niac chair: 'High level of unvaccinated is real elephant in the room'

Vivienne Clarke

The chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), Professor Karina Butler has said that the “real elephant in the room” was the high level of unvaccinated people in the country as 80 per cent of Covid patients in ICU were unvaccinated.

Now might not be the best time to give booster vaccines to the general population, she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

It could be more beneficial to wait longer and to help instead with the equity of distributing vaccines on a global basis, she said.

Booster campaign

When asked how long Niac had been planning for a booster campaign, Prof Butler said it had been considering it as far back as last spring and summer and that Niac was monitoring how the virus behaved.

There was no specific date on which Niac would be giving advice to the Government on a booster programme, she added as work was ongoing collating evidence. When that work was “ready to go” with advice that was “robust and complete”, Niac would then advise the Department of Health which would in turn advise the Government.

Prof Butler said that Niac was also reviewing evidence on the impact of infection on those under 12, and they were keeping that under constant review.

“The first goal was to get everyone vaccinated and that is still the prime focus if we want to reduce circulation and protect those for whatever reason the vaccine hasn't fully protected them.

Immunity

“As always we are following the evidence. We know that immunity is quite long-lasting”.

Information was “coming out all the time”, but there was still no single level that said “this correlates with protection, or it doesn't”.

There were a number of readily identifiable factors contributing to the spread of the virus, she said, but that the “elephant in the room” was the large number who were not unvaccinated. It was necessary to examine why that was the case and to fill the gaps in information to give those people the trust and confidence that getting vaccinated was the way forward.

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