Cate McCurry, PA
The Minister for Health has brought proposals to Cabinet to expand the Covid-19 booster programme to more GPs, pharmacies and pop-up vaccine centres.
Stephen Donnelly said the Government will assess more measures and scheduling options so more people can get the booster jab.
Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Donnelly said his department will be working with the HSE to enhance the programme.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin also called for “all hands on deck” over the booster campaign.
Mr Martin said it was “critical” that more GPs and pharmacists become involved in the programme.
“Over the weekend there have been detailed talks and engagement between government ministers and officials and the HSE in relation to the booster campaign,” he added.
“I want to thank everybody who has been involved in administering the booster jab so far.
“We need everybody on board now, all hands on deck in relation to the booster campaign because Omicron is of serious concern.
“We know booster can give lots of protection so I thank everyone who has been involved and I think there is ongoing engagement now that we can get as many GPs to continue and to stay involved, and get more involved.
“Likewise, to get more pharmacies involved in terms of administrating the vaccine over the coming days and weeks. I think that is critical in terms of the booster campaign.”
🧵Here are today's walk-in #COVIDVaccine clinics. We're operating some walk-in clinics for dose 1 and dose 2, and booster vaccines for healthcare workers and people aged over 50. #ForUsAll pic.twitter.com/FwLlcrX17R
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) December 14, 2021
Mr Martin said that the public have “adjusted their behaviours” in recent weeks, which has helped stabilise the number of cases and the number of people admitted to hospital with the virus.
“Given the nature of Omicron, we are in ongoing contact and engagement with public health but the focus over the last few days has been on the booster campaign and working out the most effective ways we can expand it and get more people jabbed as quickly as possible,” the Fianna Fáil leader added.
Mr Donnelly said they are working to produce a new schedule for the booster programme.
He said Government ministers got “very sobering advice” about the transmissibility of Omicron.
“We have been working through the weekend and have been in touch with Niac (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) as well,” Mr Donnelly added.
“There is a lot being worked through at the moment. The most important thing is that we are able to administer as many boosters as possible.
“We already have the fourth highest booster vaccination rate anywhere in the EU, which is very positive, so we are coming from a very strong place, but it is very important to me and others that we go further.
“It really is all hands on deck to get as many people boosted as quickly as possible.
“We are looking at a lot of measures, I am bringing an updated memo to Cabinet this morning on that.
“So we are looking at how we can support GPs and pharmacists in doing as many boosters as possible, how we can open up the vaccine clinics as much as possible.
“Can we have more pop-up vaccine centres for example, looking at options around scheduling.
“Looking at times during the week where there seems to be less demand.
“We will be going through a detailed process with the Department of Health, with the HSE to make sure we get as many boosted as possible.
“In the meantime, the message to everybody is really stronger now than ever. The emerging evidence we have on Omicron is that it is absolutely essential that people get their boosters, that the additional protection it gives is very, very significant.”