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rising cases Government to defy WHO advice and press on with booster shots from as early as September

Third jabs could begin as early as September despite advice to prioritise poorest countries


Dr Tony Holohan said that heath chiefs have ‘some concern’

Dr Tony Holohan said that heath chiefs have ‘some concern’

Dr Tony Holohan said that heath chiefs have ‘some concern’

The Government is set to defy World Health Organisation (WHO) advice and press on with rolling out booster shots for vulnerable people and frontline workers from as soon as September.

This comes as ministers are worried about the impact of rising cases on hospital capacity, with latest figures showing Ireland has the second highest vaccine uptake in the EU.

A well-placed source in the vaccine roll-out programme has said third shots of vaccines could be rolled out from as soon as September, in line with countries such as France and Germany.

However, the HSE is awaiting crucial formal advice from the chief medical officer and National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on what the interval should be between the second and third vaccine doses, so it can put plans in place for a booster programme.

It is hoped the booster shots will provide extra immunity for older and vulnerable people who are most at risk.

However, the HSE needs recommendations on what vaccines can be given to these groups before it can draft an implementation plan.

It is believed third jabs will be offered from as soon as September, in contravention of the WHO advice that vaccine boosters should not be offered until vaccine programmes in the poorest countries are well under way.

The WHO called for a moratorium on countries offering boosters until at least the end of September, while public health chiefs here expect that the third jab may be offered "as soon as" September.

It is not guaranteed that everybody will be offered a vaccine, as Niac's preliminary proposals have indicated that nursing home residents, over-80s, and frontline workers should be offered a third jab.

Sources said the booster programme could be run alongside the HSE's flu jab programme in the autumn.

The "emergency response" vaccination roll-out is set to conclude at the end of September, with the vast majority of people over the age of 12 fully vaccinated.

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Ireland boasts the second highest number of fully vaccinated adults in the EU at 80.7pc, following Malta.

Ministers will be briefed by the chief medical officers, the HSE and the High-Level Vaccine task force as the Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee meets on Thursday morning.

As of last night, Nphet has not been scheduled to meet this week for the fourth week in a row.

Cabinet sources yesterday told the Herald that they are fearful that high numbers of Covid patients will overwhelm hospitals.

"Hospital cases are rising by 2pc - but that's 2pc every day," said one minister.

It is unlikely that this week will see the publication of the much-anticipated roadmap to reopen the live events sector. However, this is set to come later in the month.

Sources also downplayed the reopening of nightclubs and indicated that outdoor events will be prioritised.

A minister said that if 40,000 people can be allowed to attend Croke Park for the All-Ireland finals later this month, then a similar number of people should be allowed to go to a music concert.

It comes as chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan warned public health chiefs are monitoring "the spread of the virus with some concern".

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