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beneficial Immunology professor 'surprised' booster vaccine not yet given to healthcare workers

Dr Moynagh also supported reintroduction of contact tracing in schools and the use of antigen tests

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Prof Paul Moynagh (left) pictured at NUI Maynooth. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Prof Paul Moynagh (left) pictured at NUI Maynooth. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Prof Paul Moynagh (left) pictured at NUI Maynooth. Photo: Gerry Mooney

A professor in immunology has said he is “surprised” the booster vaccine has not been administered to healthcare workers yet.

Dr Paul Moynagh said it would “make sense” to roll out the booster programme to healthcare workers with “immediate effect”.

The professor at Maynooth University said the booster vaccine for healthcare workers would be “enormously beneficial”.

“I think boosters would work it’s surprising to me that this recommendation hasn’t already taken place,” he told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

"We know that we see this waning of immunity, this antibody-mediated immunity, that leaves some people susceptible to infection after about five or six months

“Our healthcare workers were the first cohort to be vaccinated, some up to 10 months ago so some will be susceptible to infection.

“We already see now around 3,500 healthcare workers are out of work at the moment so I think the booster programme would be enormously beneficial there it would help with staffing and it would protect against infection.”

He added: “I think the booster programme would be enormously beneficial there, we know it’s safe and the protective effect would be very fast.

"You’d see the effect in one to two weeks, I think it would be very beneficial and make sense.”

Dr Moynagh said the vaccine has an immediate effect on transmission.

“You will see an immediate effect post-vaccination we’ve already seen this with the booster programme in Israel, so when you’re vaccinated you produce antibodies within one to two weeks and those antibodies stay in your blood stream for five or six months.

“During that period, you have really good protection against infection as well and obviously by blocking infection that helps in terms of limiting transmission,” he said.

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Dr Moynagh said the virus is still spreading because people become susceptible to infection again five to six months after their second dose.

He said the booster vaccine is beneficial for this reason.

“So certainly, early on you will see very beneficial effects in terms of reducing transmission of the virus.

"As well, that tends to reduce somewhat as you move away from having got the second vaccine dose and hence the benefit of the booster programme.

“It’s still spreading because as we move five and six months beyond our second vaccine dose, some of us become susceptible to infection again.”

He continued; “Even though we’re vaccinated we get infected, we probably don’t transmit the virus as much but we clear the virus quicker so we still see some beneficial effects.

"But certainly as we move beyond the second dose, we do see some breakthrough cases can transmit the virus but we still see benefits in terms of limiting transmission.”

Dr Moynagh said it would be beneficial to reintroduce contact tracing in schools. He also supported the use of antigen tests.

“There is transmission within schools, children probably do not transmit at the same extent as adults. In terms of it being a protected environment, some things have been put in place such as CO2 monitors.

“Probably I would like it to be more proactive in terms of introducing other measures such as air filtration systems and also we stopped contact tracing and I think it would be beneficial to reintroduce that.

He added: “If we have antigen testing children can easily use them and self-test with the help of their parents.

"This could be a good way of determining if a child has infectious levels of the virus so again, I think that really highlights the benefit of antigen testing.”

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