Covid-19 booster shots are to be offered to everyone over the age of 16, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced today.
reviously it was confined to the over 50s and people with lowered immune systems or those with underlying conditions over 12.
However, now the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended booster for :
• pregnant women aged 16 years and older
• those aged 40 – 49 years
• those aged 16 – 39 years, in descending order by age e.g., by 10-year age cohorts.
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In the case of those 16- 39-year-olds who received a Janssen vaccine as their primary vaccine, they can be offered a booster dose irrespective of their age after a minimum three-month interval.
As per previous booster dose recommendations, the additional dose will be given at least five months (three months for Janssen) following completion of the primary vaccination schedule.
The recommendation comes after the European Medicines Agency on Thursday approved the Pfizer jab for use in five to 11-year-old children. Previously only over-12s could be vaccinated.
Nphet also yesterday told the Government that children aged nine and over or from third class up should wear masks in school and in other settings where they are currently only required for adults, such as shops and public transport.
It also comes amid alarm over a new variant that emerged in southern Africa that has led the EU and the UK to shut down travel from several countries.
Minister Donnelly said: “I welcome Niac’s continuous review of all international evidence relating to booster doses. I am accepting and authorising these latest recommendations on the basis that a significant amount of planning will be required to operationalise these booster doses. No-one in these newly approved age cohorts has yet reached the recommended gap since the second dose.
“We continue to prioritise boosters because we know that they are having a positive impact on the level of hospitalisation, severe illness and mortality from COVID-19 in those aged over 70. I am also accelerating the booster rollout to those with underlying conditions and those in their 60s.”
The Minister added: “I would also like to once again, ask all those who are eligible for vaccination but who have yet to receive a primary dose to do so as a matter of urgency given the continuing high rates of infection in the community. We continue to see a high proportion of unvaccinated individuals requiring hospitalisation and critical care in ICU.”
If a person in a group for whom a booster dose is recommended has had laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infection after a completed primary vaccine course (i.e., a breakthrough infection), the booster dose should be delayed for at least six months after the infection was diagnosed.
“NIAC have recommended that booster doses should be offered to those identified in previous recommendations i.e. those over 50 years, those of any age in long-term healthcare facilities, healthcare workers, and those with underlying conditions before progressing to these younger age cohorts. This is to ensure priority for booster vaccines is given to those at highest risk of severe disease.
“This advice received by NIAC reflects the recommendations made in respect of booster doses in the latest European Centre of Disease Control (ECDC) rapid risk assessment published on November 24, these recommendations state that countries should consider a booster dose for all adults with priority being given to people aged 40 years of age and above.
“Both NIAC and the ECDC point out that booster vaccinations are not an outbreak measure. There is a continuing need to adhere to public health measures including meeting fewer people and avoiding crowds, wearing a mask correctly if it is recommended for you, meeting outside if possible, avoiding poorly ventilated indoor spaces and practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene.”
More to follow…