A fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose may become necessary to protect people from the virus, the head of Ireland’s vaccine rollout has said.
Professor Brian MacCraith, the head of the high level task force on the vaccination programme, said valuable lessons had been learned from the initial vaccination and booster campaign.
“All the evidence is that Covid is not going to go away,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. “This is something that could be with us for years.”
Prof MacCraith paid tribute to the teams leading the vaccine and booster rollout, pointing out that ten per cent of the eligible population received their booster dose in the first four days of this week alone.
Prof MacCraith said that up to Thursday night almost 400,000 people had been “boosted” over four days, with 1.98 million doses administered up to 12pm on Christmas Eve.
This was a remarkable achievement, he said, considering the target had been 1.5 million by Christmas Day.
The response by all to the “call to arms” had been remarkable, he said. Hospitals, pharmacists and GPs had all answered the call. The success of the acceleration had proved that GPs and pharmacies could play a central role in any future vaccine plans.
Exciting developments were happening all the time, said Prof MacCraith. A phase two clinical trial had just commenced for a “variant-proof vaccine”.
There had never previously been such global action with one goal in mind, he said.
Ireland benefited from being a member of the European Union as it received vaccines on a pro rata basis and agreements had already been signed with Pfizer for millions of extra doses for 2022, he said.
Vaccine hesitancy in Ireland had been part of the strategy and remarkable work was being done to combat misinformation and disinformation, Prof MacCraith said. The HSE had gone to great lengths to ensure that the public regarded it as “a trusted source.”
Clearly the Irish public had trusted the science and clinical leadership, with 94.2 per cent of adults fully vaccinated and 95.2 per cent with one dose, he said. The work of the mainstream media and public service media had also helped in getting the message across. “All of these things worked very well.”
The campaign for children aged five years to 11 years had already commenced in paediatric hospitals, he said, where an estimated 50,000 children with underlying conditions had received their first dose already.
It was difficult to estimate the rate at which the remaining 430,000 five to 11-year-olds would be vaccinated as it would have to be done “at an appropriate rate” for children, who could not be rushed and needed to be made feel comfortable and secure.
Vaccination centres had been instructed to make areas child-friendly and it would be a challenge to make these adjustments, he added.