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Covid 'waves' will go on for years until global vaccination programme is agreed, expert claims

“Ireland needs to be pushing for a global effort," Prof Perry has said
Prof Ivan Perry

Prof Ivan Perry

Eamon Dillon

WAVES of Covid infections could carry on for years until a global vaccination and treatment policy is agreed across the world.

While we’re on the right track to bring the pandemic to an end it is still not known how long it’s going to take, according to Dr Ivan Perry.

“We are definitely headed in the right direction it’s just a question of whether we will get there quickly, how long it will take us to get there.”

The professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College Cork said the key will be ensuring more countries are allowed to make vaccines.

“Lots more could be done to help ­countries like South Africa and emerging nations – the ability of lower and middle-income countries to produce vaccine is going to be absolutely critical or we are going to be facing waves of this for the next five years or longer.

“Ireland needs to be pushing for a global effort. We have a seat on the UN Security Council, we have a big pharma sector, it should be a huge issue for the Irish Government.”

The addition of promising new anti-viral drugs that prevent people needing hospital treatment after getting Covid should also come into use this year.

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

However, supply is limited and will stay that way until more firms are allowed to produce it, the same way HIV treatments were eventually allowed to be manufactured under licence after years of campaigning.

“Anti-viral drugs will play a role, they won’t be totally game-changing but they will be extremely helpful if they are as effective as the early trials suggest,” said Prof Perry.

As for the immediate future it remains to be seen just what effect the Omicron wave will have on the health system in Ireland.

“The key uncertainty at the moment is what proportion of the Omicron cases transition into hospital admissions and ICU admissions that is the big uncertainty.

“Even if the Omicron variant is milder than the Delta, which is by no means certain, there’s so many more cases you could still have a very, very significant number of admissions in ICUs.”

Hospital ward (Victoria Jones/PA)

Hospital ward (Victoria Jones/PA)

While it appears the Government is struggling to keep people on board with restrictions he believes there are still measures that can be taken.

“We need mass production of N95 masks or equivalent standard that actually work at a high standard. The issue of ventilation; we need minimum air quality standards when they open up the bars and restaurants and nightclubs again.”

In the long term the lessons learned from handling the pandemic could also be vital.

“This is a trial run for climate change, we are a small interdependent planet and if we can’t get our act together to fight a virus there isn’t much hope we will respond to the climate emergency.

“These things are inter-related with rising temperatures and rising population you are more likely to get pandemics.”

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