'these are facts' | 

More than half of all patients in ICU are unvaccinated against Covid-19, HSE boss reveals

'We're seeing this huge surge in cases right across Europe, right across the world'
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry (Brian Lawless/PA)

HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry (Brian Lawless/PA)

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

HSE boss Dr Colm Henry has revealed that more than half of the 90 people currently in intensive care in hospital are unvaccinated against Covid-19.

The HSE’s chief clinical officer said that while only five per cent of the eligible population are unvaccinated, they account for more than 50 per cent of those in ICU.

"I know people will say it's unfair to focus [on these numbers] but these are facts, these aren't opinions,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

Dr Henry added that the current wave of Omicron, with record numbers being beaten each day, is having a huge impact on hospital staffing levels.

"We're seeing this huge surge in cases right across Europe, right across the world,” he said.

"And we're seeing this play through not in so much severe way through the hospitals, but... one of the big disruptive effects of this is the amount of staff being identified because of the power of this particular variant to breakthrough.

"That means we're seeing more staff get infected, not nearly as many people get seriously ill, but more staff get infected or be designated as close contacts.

"And that in itself is having a highly disruptive effect on healthcare delivery".

But he says staff who are close contacts, and not symptomatic, are being called back to work.

"There's a couple of elements of existing policy we're trying to invoke in order to protect services as much as we can - including what we call derogation.

"[This is] allowing us for asymptomatic contacts for healthcare workers to come back to work earlier - provided of course they're asymptomatic, have a negative antigen test and adhere to those infection prevention control measures.

"Without that, we would be in severe trouble - there's no doubt about it".

Dr Henry says positivity rates from Omicron are high, but the vaccines protect against severe illness.

"The positivity rates are just mind-boggling at this stage: 60% positivity in community testing.

"And then the transmission within households - 35, 40% - very high.

"There's always hope that existing vaccination programmes do protect against severe illness - that's something we didn't have at the beginning."

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