Healthcare workers to receive booster Covid-19 shots from next week – Minister

Covid-19 booster shots are to be given to healthcare workers from next weekend, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced.

Mr Donnelly approved the extension of the booster programme to healthcare workers on foot of a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on Monday.

“Niac has advised that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can be used regardless of the initial vaccine course (mRNA or adenoviral vaccine),” according to Mr Donnelly, posting on Twitter.

The Minister added: “I am advised that for under-60s not immunocompromised, [the] effectiveness of vaccines is sustained against serious illness, hospitalisation and ICU admission.

“However, there is evidence of waning immunity over time of increased risk of breakthrough infection, most of which is mild.”

Healthcare workers along with those in residential care homes were the first two groups to receive Covid-19 vaccines from the start of this year.

In September Niac approved the rollout of boosters for care-home residents, due to evidence of waning protection from original vaccine doses for this vulnerable group.

Until now, however, it held off from approving them for healthcare workers.

Studies from Israel, the UK and other countries show the protection provided by vaccines against infection declines over time. However, protection against serious illness remains high, for at least six months after the initial vaccine course was administered.

Up to 3,500 healthcare workers are currently absent from work due to Covid-related illness or being a close contact.

The Health Service Executive has said this is putting a strain on hospital services at a time when the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations and intensive care admissions is higher than it has been since the start of 2021.

Over the past week, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation twice called on the Government to include healthcare workers in the booster vaccination programme.

Nursing Homes Ireland welcomed the decision to roll out boosters to healthcare workers, including those in nursing homes.

“Extending [this] to frontline staff will bring added protection to those providing person-intensive care in our nursing homes and provide the staff with greater reassurance,” said NHI chief executive Tadhg Daly. “We will be engaging with the HSE with a view to rollout of the vaccine in as timely a manner as possible as we enter into the very challenging winter period.”

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