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pressure mounts Calls to include healthcare staff in booster rollout as 3,500 miss work with Covid

'The loss of staff is bad not only for the workers themselves but for the services and people who rely on them'

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A nurse administering a Covid-19 vaccine booster. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

A nurse administering a Covid-19 vaccine booster. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

A nurse administering a Covid-19 vaccine booster. Martin Rickett/PA Wire

There are currently 3,500 healthcare workers off work due to Covid-19, the chief clinical officer with the HSE has said.

Dr Colm Henry said hospitals are under pressure with the rise in cases and the increase in socialising as a result of the easing of restrictions.

“The loss of staff is bad not only for the workers themselves but for the services and people who rely on these staff to deliver these services, and some are quite specialised staff,” he told RTÉ’s This Week.

This comes as there have been calls for healthcare workers to get a Covid-19 booster vaccine.

Currently the HSE is only offering booster vaccines to the over-60s.

Healthcare workers, the medically vulnerable and older age groups were among the first to be vaccinated earlier this year, with concerns now rising their immunity may now be waning, as nearly 3,000 new cases of the disease were confirmed in Ireland yesterday.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) is meeting tomorrow to discuss boosters for healthcare workers and the wider booster campaign.

“We’re heading into a winter where we are delivering unscheduled care, emergency care, scheduled care and catching up on waiting lists,” Dr Henry said. “92 of our 300 ICU beds are taken up by Covid patients and that leaves very little room outside Covid for emergency trauma care and for any additional elective capacity.

“We cannot forget the basic measures, vaccines, testing and tracing and hospitals alone cannot withstand a surge of Covid-19 if they convert into serious illness in hospitalisation,” Dr Henry said.

Dr Henry said the HSE is ready to administer booster vaccines to frontline healthcare workers.

“Certainly we're anxious if there is the evidence there with NIAC that we progress quickly and we’re ready to administer quickly to frontline healthcare workers to protect them and to protect patients and services going into what will be a difficult winter,” he said.

Dr Henry urged anyone who is not yet vaccinated to get the vaccine.

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"I would say to anyone who is unvaccinated, there is no protection you have from this version of the virus which is very transmissible and you’re every bit as vulnerable as you were before the vaccine rollout and the fact that other people are vaccinated doesn’t give you any protection at a time of high community transmission,” he said.

Dr Henry also revealed 57pc of pregnant women are now vaccinated, amid concerns over lower vaccine uptake among women who are expecting, with 20 being admitted to ICUs with Covid since June.

“We have seen higher levels of uptake in pregnant women, 57pc of pregnant women are now vaccinated that’s a big jump from 35pc only a couple of months ago,” he said.

“Those daily bookings have also gone from 800 a day to 1,500 to 2,000 a day so positive signs that people are listening, and people understand the benefit and the protection that these vaccines give from serious illness,” he added.

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