The HSE’s lead for the vaccination programme, Damien McCallion, has said that there is sufficient stock of vaccines for the booster campaign which will extend to healthcare workers this weekend.
Mr McCallion told RTÉ radio’s News at One that 25,000 people aged over 65 in residential care had already been given their booster dose.
Furthermore, 160,000 people over the age of 80 had also received their booster dose while the vaccination of 330,000 over 70s is under way and the campaign for those aged 60 will start this week.
Of the 300,000 healthcare workers who are now approved for the booster dose, the majority will be vaccinated in the vaccination centres around the country, some through hospitals who will vaccinate their own staff and eventually through pharmacies.
“The capacity is in place to do this. There are ample supplies to roll out the programme,” Mr McCallion said.
He also pointed out that some healthcare staff would have received their second dose in recent months and would have to wait until it was six months since their last dose before they could get the booster jab.
Mr McCallion also explained that there was also a category in the booster campaign for people who were immunocompromised for whom the third dose was vital for protection. That programme is under way for 90,000 people of whom 70,000 had been identified through hospitals and 43,000 have already received their third dose.
The public is urged to take the appointment for a booster dose when they are contacted “if at all possible” but if the timing was difficult efforts would be made to find a more convenient alternative.
The contact tracing system was under pressure with the recent rise in cases and subsequent community referrals, Mr McCallion explained. Surge plans were in place and some aspects of the service had been automated to release staff to another capacity.
“We are coping, we are getting through the cases.”
There was no question that the increased numbers were putting pressure on the healthcare system.
When asked about contact tracing for school children, Mr McCallion said they would continue to follow public health advice, which was that rates of transmission for children were higher in the community than in schools.