Healthcare workers should be part of booster vaccine programme, Minister says

Covid vaccine boosters for people over the age of 60 were approved by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee this week
Healthcare workers should be part of booster vaccine programme, Minister says

By Cate McCurry, PA

Minister Simon Harris has said he wants to see healthcare workers included in a Covid vaccine booster programme, saying he is surprised one has not yet been approved.

The Minister for Higher Education said the Government is “eager” to roll out a very ambitious booster programme, and would like to see healthcare workers part of it.

Vaccine boosters for people over the age of 60 were approved by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) this week.

“Everybody in Government is obviously eager to roll out a very ambitious booster (programme) because we have already accepted the premise that after a period of time there can be weaning in relation to vaccines,” Mr Harris said.

“That’s why we already have our over-80s getting a booster and those in long-term residential facilities, people with very low immune systems and now those over the age of 60.

“I would like to see healthcare workers get a booster because many of them were vaccinated at an early stage of the programme.”

He made the comments as he visited a vaccine centre at Trinity College.

Niac is currently reviewing a decision to include those who work in healthcare settings in the booster programme.

The Minister said: “They have said to Government, as recently as yesterday, that they are examining whether a healthcare booster programme should be rolled out and I have no doubt they will do that in a robust way.

“If Niac do give the green light for a booster programme then we have to ensure we are ready to go very quickly and very efficiently.”

Meanwhile, Mr Harris also said that more people, including students, are taking up the Covid vaccine.

Volunteers working at the Trinity College pop-up centre estimate that between 300 and 500 students received a vaccine on Wednesday, with about 50 per cent of those receiving their first dose.

“I think young people and others will be focusing their minds that the certificate will be here until spring. The vaccine is not mandatory but it is the law of the land, if you want to go into certain premises you have to be vaccinated,” Mr Harris added.

“There’s still a lot of students yet to get vaccinated – figures that I saw at the weekend show there’s about 155,000 people aged 16 to 29 who are not fully vaccinated.

“It’s the Government’s job not to wag the finger but to make it as easy as possible. We are bringing vaccinations to your college.

“I really don’t think that when we talk of the success of the vaccine programme that we should write off people who have not yet come forward or indeed leave them behind.”

Mr Harris also said that the Government will be looking at ways to ensure businesses are checking customers’ Covid passes to eat and drink indoors.

There are concerns that some in the hospitality sector are not checking Covid certificates or identification, as required by current legislation.

Mr Harris said that businesses and citizens need to accept that Covid passes will remain in place until February, as advised by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

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