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Don't wait Every eligible adult should be offered booster as soon as possible, professor says

'Give it to everybody who’s eligible and don’t wait for five months'

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Professor Kingston Mills

Professor Kingston Mills

Professor Kingston Mills

The five-month gap between the second dose and the booster for Covid-19 should be removed, according to Professor of Immunology Kingston Mills.

Prof Mills said that the booster campaign should be expedited in light of recent data on the Omicron variant and the effect the booster has on it.

“Give it to everybody who’s eligible and don’t wait for five months,” Prof Mills said on Brendan O’Connor’s show on RTÉ Radio 1.

“This five months - there is some benefit in having a longer gap but this is offset by the huge benefit of vaccinating everyone now that really need the protection,”.

Prof Mills referenced the latest results of a UK study that three doses of a vaccine give over 70pc protection against symptomatic Covid-19 from Omicron, while two doses offered far less protection.

The Trinity College immunologist said that Omicron is likely to be the dominant variant in the UK in the coming weeks, and added: “if it happens in the UK it will happen in Ireland too”. This may take a few weeks longer in Ireland as it appears it is not as widespread here yet, the professor suggested.

He predicted Omicron may be dominant here in January.

“We’ve had a very small number of cases [of Omicron] so far, and if we could manage to contain those, we could avert the worst effects of it. This will depend on how well we can contain it. The problem is we’re so linked to the UK and Northern Ireland by travel that it will be difficult to stop it,” Prof Mills said.

The five antigen test requirement for arrivals from the UK is a “very good” infection control measure if people comply, Prof Mills said, adding “it’s very difficult to enforce it”.

There have been just six cases of the new variant found in Ireland across three counties but public health officials have indicated they expect many more in the coming days and weeks, and expect it to overtake Delta and become the dominant variant here.

The “bright thing” is that a lot of our vulnerable populations have had three vaccines, “so hospitalisations should not be high, hopefully”.

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Vaccinations will not limit the spread of Covid-19, Prof Mills said, but may be effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalisation.

“It will not limit the spread. The best vaccines now are unlikely to prevent infection with Delta, not to mind Omicron. Unfortunately, we’re not going to limit the spread of the virus with the vaccine but the hope is we’ll limit serious disease,” Prof Mills said.

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