missing out | 

People who caught Covid in last six months have to wait until 2022 for booster

Six-month timeline has been set by Niac on the grounds that they have immunity after getting Covid
Kevin Mckeon, 14, receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Dublin last summer. Photo: PA

Kevin Mckeon, 14, receiving his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Dublin last summer. Photo: PA

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Eilish O’Regan

Tens of thousands of fully vaccinated people who caught Covid-19 in the last six months are missing out on Christmas booster shots and will have to wait until 2022 for the jab.

The six-month gap between their last dose and eligibility for a booster is twice as long as for people in other cohorts who were vaccinated at the same time.

The six-month timeline has been set by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on the grounds that they have immunity from infection after getting Covid.

The wait for people in the same position in the UK is only 28 days.

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Dr Gerald Barry, assistant professor of virology at University College Dublin, said the timeline should be shortened to 28 days here also.

He said: “We have had a policy in place for a while now that is contradictory to current evidence around the Omicron variant.

“The protection we used to get from a previous infection has reduced.

“The likelihood of reinfection is five times higher with Omicron than with previous variants. The word ‘immune’ means resistance to infection. That is not really accurate in the case of Omicron any more. Our advice needs to be updated.”

Around 300,000 Covid-19 infections have been reported in the last six months and a significant proportion of these would be in people who were fully vaccinated.

Prof Barry also called for a change in advice which allows people who had a positive Covid-19 test in the previous nine months and who have no symptoms not to restrict movements or take antigen tests if they are a close contact.

“You are creating a false sense of security in people. They may think they are ­bullet-proof and they are not.”

It comes as the Omicron virus tightened its grip, with another 4,799 new cases of Covid-19 reported yesterday with a sharp rise in infection in the 16 to 34-year-olds.

Hospitals are continuing to “prepare for the worst”, creating additional intensive care beds amid concern that staff absenteeism will surge due to the variant.

There are fears that more patients who are admitted to hospital for non-Covid conditions will be at risk of picking up the virus.

A derogation for health staff who have no symptoms and are close contacts of a confirmed case will be implemented with precautions such as regular testing.

Meanwhile, parents of children aged 5-11 who have a health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness from Covid-19 are being invited to register for a first dose of the Pfizer jab from December 28.

The HSE said the portal will also include children who are in the same household as someone who has complex medical needs or who is immunocompromised.

A spokeswoman said: “This is being done to prioritise children who are most at risk from Covid-19, so that they can be protected and to protect ­vulnerable household contacts.”

Parents of all other children aged 5-11 years will be invited later in January to register their children for vaccination.

It is expected the wider roll-out to healthy children will start in the second week of January.

Yesterday high-risk children were the first to get the vaccine in children’s hospitals and paediatric units across the country.

Apart from these high-risk children, all others will get the first of two doses in ‘child-friendly’ vaccination centres.

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