Republic of Ireland news

Covid boosters to be offered to vulnerable people in Republic from next week

People who are eligible for the top up will start to receive their appointments most likely by the end of next week, the HSE chief executive said
Cate McCurry, PA

Covid boosters will be offered to vulnerable people and those at greatest risk of the disease from next week, Paul Reid confirmed.

People who are eligible for the top up will start to receive their appointments most likely by the end of next week, the HSE chief executive said.

The third dose of vaccine would top up the immunity of those whose protection have likely waned off following their first and second shots earlier this year.

Mr Reid said it will take between five and six weeks to complete the programme.

He told RTÉ Morning Ireland that the process of identifying those who qualify for the top-up is “complex”.

“First of all what we’ve had to do is work with Niac (National Immunisation Advisory Committee), who set out the early recommendations and classification, and our clinical teams have been engaged with them to get greater clarity,” Mr Reid said.

“Our intention is to commence the process later next week, probably by Wednesday, to start making appointments.

“Then probably by Friday of next week people will start to get appointments coming through.

“It is a more complex piece of identification.”

He said it will include people who are highly immunocompromised, organ recipients, renal patients, certain cancer patients, and people on particular medications.

People will be contacted by the HSE and clinical teams about their appointments, Mr Reid said.

“If people are not contacted, it’s most likely an indication that they’re not in that higher risk category.

“So those who are in the high risk categories will be determined by our clinical teams,” he added.

Mr Reid also defended the decision to relax close contact rules for children under 13 from Monday.

From next week, children who are close contacts of a confirmed case in primary schools or childcare settings no longer have to self-isolate.

It will see thousands of children who have been restricting their movements going back to class.

Mr Reid said evidence shows lower transmission levels in schools and a higher transmission rate among households.

“We do believe that the harm caused by keeping young children out of school for periods of time, with lower transmission levels, and with lower levels of sicknesses, the balance of risk is much better to have them in school for their social, physical, and general wellbeing,” he added.

“I think the public should take good confidence from this approach because it is now a demonstration of the whole phase of Covid moving to a very different phase.”

Mr Reid also backed a planned Covid “bonus” for frontline workers.

The Government is planning a one-off bonus, either a cash lump sum or additional leave days, for frontline workers in recognition of their efforts during the pandemic.

“I’ve worked in many sectors private sector, public sector, not for profit, local governments, national governments and now health systems,” he added.

“I have never seen a commitment from a workforce that I’ve seen in the health system to this pandemic.

“It’s been described as heroic, sometimes that may not do justice to the actual sacrifices that our staff made, and I do believe there is merit in having very real recognition for them.”

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