By Cate McCurry, PA
More than 215,000 appointments for Covid-19 booster shots were missed in the last two weeks, prompting concern within Government.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there is not the same urgency to get the third dose compared with the first and second jab.
Mr Martin told the Dáil that in the week beginning November 22nd, 208,000 appointments were made, but about 80,000 people turned up to receive their booster shot.
Last week 180,000 appointments were made, but 93,000 people turned up.
Today we'll administer the one millionth booster / 3rd dose of Covid 19 vaccines here.
Ireland has the highest primary vaccination rate (93%) among adults in the EU and the fourth highest rate of booster administration.
When offered your booster, please take it #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/RTaV2qSJIb
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) December 7, 2021
“The most important collective message we as a House can give to people today is to take your booster vaccine when you’re offered it,” Mr Martin said.
“Vaccination is protecting people more than anything else, against severe illness, against hospitalisation and against admission to ICUs.
“The booster vaccination has been shown to produce very, very strong antibody responses and are likely to provide protection against severe disease, hospitalisation and death from most variants, including Delta and Omicron.
“So the same urgency doesn’t seem to be there in terms of availing of the option to take the booster as was there when we offered the first dose and the second dose.
“If you look at the over-75 group, people have taken up the offer. In that group, where people have taken up the offer of a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine in high numbers, we are seeing significant reduction in the incidence of disease.
“So it does work, the booster will have a really significant impact on Delta, I can’t stress that enough.”
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has been accused of ignoring expert advice to install air purifiers to classrooms.
A report submitted by the Expert Group on the Role of Ventilation in Reducing Transmission of Covid-19 recommended the use of HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorbing) filters in classrooms which are poorly ventilated.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said schools have been forced to open windows during the winter for good ventilation.
“Children and teaching staff have been freezing in classrooms, wearing hats and scarves during the school day, with windows wide open in an attempt to keep them safe,” Ms McDonald added.
The Government should use the Christmas break to ensure HEPA filters are rolled-out to classrooms across the State.
For the Gov't to tell staff and children in our schools that the answer on ventilation is to shiver in classrooms all winter is not acceptable – @MaryLouMcDonald pic.twitter.com/2dXFaSJsXy
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) December 7, 2021
“We’re nearly two years into this pandemic, but Government still hasn’t delivered a plan for proper ventilation in our schools.
“It’s been clear for some time that HEPA filters have an important role to play in ensuring schools have clean air.
“They remove contaminants and viruses from the air and help reduce airborne transmission in classrooms with poor ventilation.
“The World Health Organisation, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and indeed, the Government’s own expert group on ventilation, have all emphasised the value of HEPA filters in keeping schools safe.
“Yet, instead of listening to this expert advice and installing HEPA filters in schools, the Government’s approach is, as you put it Taoiseach at your press conference on Friday, you said to ‘open the windows and that’.
“Parents and school staff must have been shaking their heads in disbelief.”
Mr Martin said the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, has adhered to expert advice surrounding ventilation.
He added: “Schools will be in a position, if they wish and if it’s suitable, to buy HEPA filters for classrooms.
Richard challenges the Taoiseach on lack of action on Ventilation - HEPA filters for schools now https://t.co/pOH8IaxdMx
— People Before Profit (@pb4p) December 7, 2021
“Invariably there’s no one magic silver bullet to deal with Covid, it’s a combination of efforts.”
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said: “I have to say that I am shocked at your complacency, your inaction and quite frankly, your denial of science when it comes to the issue of air quality and ventilation.
“We now know that Covid-19 is an airborne disease. It hangs around in the air, and it hangs around, in particular, in buildings that are of poor quality, where there’s poor levels of ventilation or where there’s a lack of filtration of the air to ensure air purity.
“The science is building up very, very rapidly on this and yet the Government is doing nothing about it.”