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Minister confirms updates to Covid-19 vaccination programme 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly – Photo: Brian Arthur

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has accepted new recommendations in relation to Ireland’s COVID-19 vaccination programme. 

The recommendations were made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) to the Interim Chief Medical Officer (CMO), who has endorsed these recommendations.

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NIAC has recommended:  

– A first mRNA booster vaccine for those aged 5-11 years who are immunocompromised

– A second mRNA booster vaccine for those aged 50-64 years

– A second mRNA booster vaccine for those aged 12-49 years who have an underlying medical condition or are residents of long-term care facilities

– A second mRNA booster vaccine for pregnant women at 16 weeks or later who have not already received a booster vaccine in their current pregnancy

– A second mRNA booster vaccine for healthcare workers

– A third mRNA booster vaccine for those aged 65 years and older, and those aged 12-64 years who are immunocompromised.

NIAC has also recommended that COVID-19 vaccines may be given at the same time as the seasonal influenza vaccines. Booster doses should be given four months after a previous COVID-19 vaccine dose or a previous natural infection. A booster dose after an infection has been shown to provide additional protection. It continues to be recommended that people get and complete their primary vaccine course and booster shot(s) if they haven’t already done so.

Minister Donnelly said: “I welcome today’s update to Ireland’s vaccination programme. We have very high protection in the population thanks to our successful vaccine programme. The Autumn vaccination programme will ensure we continue to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

“The evidence suggests that a second booster dose may reduce infection rates, which would benefit healthcare workers and help sustain the healthcare system coming into the winter months.

“The main purpose of vaccination is to prevent serious illness, hospitalisation and death. Hybrid immunity resulting from infection and booster vaccination confers stronger protection than infection alone. As such, I urge anyone yet to receive their primary course or booster vaccine do so as soon as possible.”

Interim CMO, Professor Breda Smyth said: “There is clear evidence that the Omicron variant has been less severe than previous variants due to the high uptake of vaccines. While we have seen a recent surge in infections, this has thankfully not translated into the same pressure on our hospitals and people getting severely unwell. COVID-19 vaccines have been remarkably effective in this regard.”

The Department of Health and the HSE will now work to operationalise these updates.

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