'All hands on deck' needed for booster rollout, says Taoiseach

Under plans being drawn up by the HSE, hundreds of healthcare workers s are likely to be redeployed into administering vaccines over the coming weeks.
'All hands on deck' needed for booster rollout, says Taoiseach

Updated at 9:26am

The Taoiseach has said there needs to be "all hands on deck" for the rollout of the booster campaign as the Omicron variant is "is of serious concern".

His comments come as the Government has been rushing to plan responses to the expected spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 after public health officials revealed that it now accounts for 11 per cent of all infections in Ireland.

As reported in The Irish Times, there has been more than a ten-fold increase in the number of Omicron cases in the last week. Public health officials now expect case numbers to rise steeply in the coming weeks leading to increased pressure on the health service.

This comes as Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly announced that the gap between the second and third dose of Covid vaccines will be cut to three months to accelerate the booster programme.

Under plans being drawn up by the HSE, hundreds of healthcare workers are likely to be redeployed to administer vaccines over the coming weeks.

Previously, healthcare workers had been redeployed from hospitals and community services to help in the vaccine roll-out. However, most have since returned to their original area of work.

This means some non-Covid services may have to be cancelled due to the redeployment of staff.

Mass vaccination centres

On his way into Cabinet, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he thinks people have"adjusted well" over the last few weeks which has stabilised hospital and case numbers.

"Given the nature of Omicron we are in ongoing contact and engagement with public health, but the focus over the last number of days has been on the booster campaign, working out the most effective ways that we can expand it and get more people jabbed as quickly as we possibly can," Mr Martin said.

A number of changes are set to be made to ensure at least 1.5 million people receive a third dose before Christmas.

The opening hours for mass vaccination centres will be extended and boosters may be provided at additional locations as part of the plan.

Furthermore, most people aged 30 and over attending vaccination centres will be administered the Moderna vaccine. This is due to the HSE supplies being near their expiry date.

Last week, Moderna accounted for 35 per cent of all booster jabs administered with the HSE having over 1 million doses of Moderna due to expire soon.

The latest figures show that over 1.2 million booster doses have been given out to date which includes 97,000 third doses to people who are immunocompromised.

Further restrictions

Amid concern over the Omicron variant, it is understood that Nphet will meet on Thursday where they are expected to ask for a “tightening” of restrictions ahead of the Christmas period.

However, Minister for Public Expenditure Micheál McGrath has said further restrictions before Christmas is "not a scenario we are giving any consideration to at this point in time".

"We have always said that when Nphet makes its recommendations, we are duty bound to consider those carefully. But at this point in time we have no additional recommendations," Mr McGrath said.

"It's been a really difficult time for so many businesses across many sectors of the Irish economy.

"The next couple of weeks will be really crucial, so we certainly want to see them do well in terms of their trade, and we know that the vast majority of them are acting responsibly and are enforcing control measures that are there.

"We certainly haven't received any such recommendations but at the same time, no, we're not in a position to categorically give guarantees or rule anything out. If we do receive recommendations from Niac we will of course consider them."

Speaking to The Irish Times, a source said areas that could be explored for further restrictions include hospitality closing times, regulations around home visits and travel restrictions. However, the Government has not been given any advance notice of Nphet's agenda for the meeting.

It is further understood that public health officials will ask people to limit their social contacts in a bid to curb a further increase in cases while the booster jab campaign is being rolled out.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more