Covid boosters should be rolled out to over 40s, immuniologist says

The State should start rolling out the booster vaccine to people aged over 40, an immunlogy expert has said.

UCC Professor of Immunovirology, Liam Fanning, stressed that we have to come to terms with the idea that preventing transmission of Covid now involves a “three shot vaccine.”

In an interview with Brendan O’Connor on RTE Radio 1 Prof Fanning said that he could not comprehend the “slowness” of health authorities in approving the booster vaccine.

“I would have started six weeks ago rolling out the booster shot. We have a situation now where healthcare professionals can get the booster as well and that effectively authorises the use of booster shots for every age because medical students, nursing students — they are all going to be eligible for the booster shot as well.

“Yes handwashing and masks are important but we can’t underestimate the value of boosters. We have the data from across the globe that these booster shots are of value and I would move it down to the over forties.

“This is turning out to be a three shot vaccine. Hopes it would turn out to be a two shot were well placed at the time but the data suggests this is a three shot vaccine. And so what if we have to get it every year?

Prof Fanning said his attitude is that boosters need to be “rolled out as fast as possible”.

He stated in Israel case numbers are down in older age groups arising out of the use of booster vaccines.

“We have all heard the data from Israel. (The booster vaccinated older population) were nearly twenty times less likely to get severe Covid. The Israeli’s did (gave the shot) to 1.1 million over sixties. The infection rates were over eleven fold less. What that means in practical terms is that for every 100 infections they had previously they were down to less than 10.”

Prof Fanning stressed that the evidence in favour in booster shots has been there for the last few weeks.

“Actually even in the last few months in respect to it. The efficacy of the vaccines and the booster.”

He added that what should be last in our arsenal in our battle against Covid is the taking away of personal freedoms.

“There is a mantra now from phet that you know personal freedom reduction is something that we always lived with. But those freedoms should be the last thing to go. We have boosters to protect us.”

A booster programme is already under way for healthcare workers and those over 60, with the National Immunisation Advisory Council (NIAC) also considering extending it to people under 60 with underlying conditions.

The HSE said people in the sixties age group will receive a text message with an appointment for their booster dose. It is recommended that people get boosters at least six months after their second dose. People are being ofered boosters of the e Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine regardless of which vaccine they received initially. GPs continue to offer booster dose appointments to people 70 years and over.

On Friday Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said booster jabs should be rolled out to every adult six months after their initial vaccination against Covid-19.

Mr Varadkar said he believes it will be necessary to expand the programme to the wider population.

A further 3,685 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed on Saturday, as the chief medical officer advised the public to walk out of bars and restaurants if they do not ask customers for Covid certificates.

According to the Department of Health, there were 444 patients with the virus in hospital as of 8am on Saturday, 74 of whom were being treated in intensive care (ICU).

In a video posted on his Twitter feed, Dr Tony Holohan admitted that people do not want to hear public health messaging anymore but Covid-19 is “not releasing its grip”.

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