Ireland ‘on the back foot’ with Covid vaccine boosters, says expert

Professor Christine Loscher said the booster campaign should have been rolled out as soon as it was approved
Ireland ‘on the back foot’ with Covid vaccine boosters, says expert

Vivienne Clarke

Ireland is “on the back foot” and missed an opportunity with Covid-19 vaccine boosters, according to an immunology expert.

Professor Christine Loscher told Newstalk Breakfast that the booster campaign should have been rolled out as soon as it was approved by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), but it did not commence for two and a half weeks.

“Niac made that decision and nothing happened. They should have been ready,” she said.

Prof Loscher pointed out that 65 per cent of people ending up in hospital now with Covid were over the age of 55. The majority of people aged over 60 had received the AstraZeneca vaccine which was now waning, she said.

One could not but be concerned at rising hospital numbers, she added. There had been a dip in the number hospitalised five days ago, with increases and decreases over the past month.

“You can’t take (figures) just one day and make a decision," she said. “We’re on the back foot with boosters. We missed an opportunity.”

Still covered

Prof Loscher said that young people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were still covered, as that vaccine was similar to the Pfizer vaccine in terms of the length of time it was active before waning. They were also likely to have received their vaccine more recently so they were still covered, she added.

However, Prof Loscher said that age group was back at work and at college so they were “life mixing” and not necessarily “social mixing”. As a result, it was difficult to decipher what was happening in their age cohort.

Antigen testing had an important role to play in schools, she added. In cases where there was an outbreak in a class, antigen tests should be given to parents who would then test their children to see if they could go to school.

As children were not vaccinated the virus “is having a field day” with that age group, she said. Antigen testing would be a means to monitor what was happening with that cohort.

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