There was a time when Ireland was the “envy of Europe” for the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines. But the country is now in a state of “vaccination fatigue” even as the current waves sweep through every county. In the week leading up to Christmas, more than 523,000 people, many of whom queued for hours at vaccination centers, received a booster shot fearing the Omicron variant.
Well over 2.9 million have received a booster shot, but there remain around 716,000 over the age of 16 who have not received one.
Some of them are people who have had Covid-19 and then have to wait three months infection, the weekly numbers being increased remain sluggish.
In the week beginning March 7, 20,100 booster shots were administered. The following week, which included St. Patrick’s Day and the additional bank holiday, the numbers dropped to 12,300. Only 18,200 boosters were given out last week.
The booster shots are available from HSE vaccination centers, pharmacies and some GPs.
Darragh O’Loughlin, head of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said uptake of boosters was still very slow and many of those infected in December are now due or overdue for their refresher.
“We thought we would see a lot of them, but we don’t see them in pharmacies,” he said.
“It seems that the same sense of urgency is not there, although a significant number in intensive care have not received a refresher. Since the government lifted all remaining restrictions, the impression is that we are done with Covid-19.
“The perception is that Omicron is a very mild disease, although we know that’s not the case for everyone.”
The HSE could find it more difficult to meet the required uptake rate if a second booster shot is offered sometime this year.
Mr O’Loughlin said contingency plans were is being prompted by the HSE to potentially offer both the flu and Covid-19 booster vaccines in one session.
Ireland’s vaccination rate remains high and has been credited with allowing few people who contract Covid-19 to become seriously ill.
Around a third of intensive care patients with Covid-19 are not boosted.
Internationally, Ireland has slipped down the vaccination table. On March 28th, the number of vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants in Malta is the highest at 243.25. Denmark, Portugal, Italy, Iceland and Belgium follow. Ireland is seventh with 215.3 vaccine doses per 100 inhabitants.
Boosters for 12 to 15 year olds have been available since March 5th. A spokeswoman for the HSE said there are around 202,000 young people in this cohort and 133,000 are currently eligible, depending on the date of their first two vaccines.
Of the 133,000 young people, 14,000 have received their refresher so far.
The uptake of primary courses of Covid-19 vaccines among five to eleven year olds remains quite slow, but demand is stable three months after they were first made available.
Of the 482,000 children in this age group, around 21 percent or 101,000 are fully vaccinated. Around 120,000 have received their first dose.
More vaccines are on the way. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started an ongoing review of a Covid-19 vaccine called HIPRA.
It is a booster vaccine for adults who have already been fully vaccinated. Preliminary results suggest it could be effective against variants of concern like Omicron.
It’s a protein-based vaccine that represents older technology and may appeal more to those more hesitant about the newer technology behind Pfizer and Moderna.
EMA said it will assess the vaccine’s compliance with usual EU standards for efficacy, safety and quality. It said that while it cannot predict overall timelines, it should take less time than normal to assess an eventual application of the work done during the rolling review.
The National Immunization Advisory Committee (NIAC) will recommend the next level of vaccination.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/vaccine-fatigue-set-in-when-restrictions-lifted-despite-new-wave-sweeping-country-41505468.html “Vaccine fatigue” set in when restrictions were lifted, even as a new wave swept the country