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not planned Idea of Covid-19 'immunity passports' is premature, government claims

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Friday, December 22nd, 2017, Dublin Ireland - people's movement blur at Terminal 2 arrivals of Dublin Airport during the Christmas holiday season

Friday, December 22nd, 2017, Dublin Ireland - people's movement blur at Terminal 2 arrivals of Dublin Airport during the Christmas holiday season

Friday, December 22nd, 2017, Dublin Ireland - people's movement blur at Terminal 2 arrivals of Dublin Airport during the Christmas holiday season

IT IS “premature” to be discussing the idea of so-called ‘immunity passports’ for people who get vaccinated against Covid-19, a senior Government official has warned.

Department of the Taoiseach Assistant Secretary General Liz Canavan said this is because of “uncertainties” that remain about vaccines including how long they offer immunity and whether booster injections are needed.

She said there is also the possibility that those who are inoculated could pass on the virus – despite being protected from severe symptoms themselves.

Ms Canavan said that the HSE are instead focusing on separate ‘vaccine certificates’ to identify and monitor people who have been vaccinated.

This will allow the agency to keep track of which vaccine has been administered and on what dates.

Vaccinations are expected to start in small numbers – initially focused on older people in nursing homes – by the end of the year.

Ms Canavan said Covid-19 vaccines can only be approved and used if they comply with all of the requirements of quality, safety and efficacy set out in the EU pharmaceutical legislation.

Meanwhile, she raised concern about the rising spread of the disease and said it’s the choices people make in the run up to Christmas that will have the greatest impact on the speed at which this happens.

She said: “Remember our overall priority is to protect the vulnerable, to ensure our schools can reopen as planned and to ensure that we can continue non-Covid health services over the next period.”

Ms Canavan said restrictions on inter-county travel and household visits are being eased against a backdrop of a worsening picture with the virus in recent days.

The reproduction number is now between 1.1 and 1.3 meaning that an infected person will spread the virus to more than one other person.

Ms Canavan said: “From now on every decision we take to meet somebody could have consequences for ourselves or for those that we intend to mark Christmas with – either disrupting your plans if you become a close contact and you have to be tested - or for a small number of people much more serious consequences in terms of their health.”

She said people’s hard work has brought the virus under control but “we want to make sure that remains the case.

“The numbers we are seeing now indicate that we could be moving past the tipping point.

“We have to respond to that as we have done previously.”

The Government is considering the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (Nphet) latest advice on tightening restrictions again.

Ms Canavan said the advice for Christmas gatherings is to “keep it small” and “short”, that outdoors is safer than indoors and wear face coverings to protect the vulnerable.

She advised people to check with those they intend to meet up with to ensure they’re still comfortable with the plans given the rising Covid-19 rates and said Christmas shopping should be done at off-peak hours.

She also addressed the issue of schools having to close due to Covid-19 outbreaks and said this is always done on the basis of public health advice.

She said: “To date the public health evidence shows that schools are safe places and that the risk of Covid-19 has been managed very well within the school environment.

“It’s worth pointing out that the detection rate for Covid-19 when testing occurs in schools has averaged at 2.4pc since reopening.

“In the current week it is at 3.5pc.

“And while this shows an increase it is still significantly lower in comparison to community close contact positivity testing which is around 12.5pc.”

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