Fifties focus | 

HSE chief says there are no plans to roll out booster programme for over-40s next week

It comes as 4,004 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed this afternoon while 481 patients are hospitalised, of which 111 are in ICU

Eoghan Moloney

The HSE has not made any plans to open the booster campaign to people aged 40-49 next week, chief executive Paul Reid has said.

Mr Reid twice refuted the reports that people in this age cohort would begin receiving a booster next week and said the HSE is focussing on current eligible cohorts.

This comes as 4,004 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed this afternoon while 481 patients are hospitalised, of which 111 are in ICU.

“We haven’t communicated anything out on it and once we are in that position, if there are any communications; we will put that out through the minister [Stephen Donnelly]. Right now we have not done that yet,” Paul Reid told Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio.

“We’ve only opened up the [over] 50 groups last week and that’s our target focus now to work through that,” Mr Reid said.

The HSE’s “primary focus” is on offering 2.2 million currently eligible people an opportunity to receive a booster before the end of this month, Mr Reid said.

He also echoed the Taoiseach’s claim that 1.5m people will likely be boosted by Christmas. More than 1.1 million people have already been boosted.

“Between now and the end of December, those 2.2 million will have had their vaccine, had their appointment scheduled or had the opportunity to attend a walk-in clinic,” Paul Reid told Katie Hannon on RTÉ Radio.

Whether Ireland sees 1.5 million people boosted by Christmas “all depends on takeup”, Mr Reid said and not availability of the vaccines. The HSE will “continuously monitor” takeup and completion of various cohorts and may change eligibility criteria based on those figures.

There has been a major push towards boosting as much of the population as possible given recent data which suggests two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine offer far less protection against new variant Omicron, in comparison to Delta.

Three doses of Pfizer offers 75pc protection against symptomatic Covid-19 from the Omicron variant, the UK’s Health Security Agency have said.

Hospitals will be under real pressure in December and January as a result of Covid-19, Mr Reid said this morning.

"In December & January we know our hospitals will be under real pressure with currently 481 Covid-19 patients & 113 in ICU.

"We can all help to make this better by taking up the booster vaccine when offered.

"This weekend many locations open for walk-ins for specified groups,” Mr Reid said on Twitter.

Mr Reid has urged people to get the booster vaccine, with 18 walk-in centres across the country open this weekend to people over 50, healthcare workers and people with certain medical conditions.

Long queues have been reported at many centres with UCD and Clonmel reporting waiting times of over two hours.

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