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'No stigma' Pupils whose parents decide not to give them Covid vaccine will not be excluded from school

'No stigma' based on jab status as families prepare for return to school

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Secondary school children whose parents decide not to give them a Covid-19 vaccine cannot be excluded from education, it was confirmed yesterday.

From Thursday anyone over 12 years of age can apply for a Covid-19 vaccine but many parents may adopt a 'wait and see' approach before deciding to immunise their children, leaving schools with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated pupils.

Asked what impact this will have on unvaccinated pupils, a spokesman for the Department of Education said yesterday that "there is no intention that any child would be excluded from education on the basis they have not received a vaccine".

Very high-risk students with underlying medical conditions that continue to make them extremely vulnerable should they get Covid-19 will "continue to be provided with adapted education provision".

Unvaccinated teachers are expected to work in the school unless they are deemed very high risk.

"All Covid-19 vaccines are free, safe and will protect from severe Covid-19 illness," he said.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan also told Health Minister Stephen Donnelly there should be no segregation or stigmatisation of children based on vaccination status.

It comes as 1,522 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday. Nearly 20,000 cases of the virus were diagnosed in the last two weeks.

Of these, 83pc, were people who were not vaccinated or were partially vaccinated.

Nearly 75pc of the adult population is now fully vaccinated.

The most vulnerable are the unvaccinated or partially ­vaccinated.

Dr Holohan said that "while 17pc of cases were in people who are doubly vaccinated, this is entirely in keeping with what we expect as an increasing proportion of our population get vaccinated".

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"It's important to remember that this does not mean vaccines are not effective," Dr Holohan said.

"While they will not prevent every case, they provide excellent protection against severe disease and significantly reduce the risk of hospitalisation.

"If you are awaiting or have recently received your second vaccine dose, please be aware you are not yet fully vaccinated. You will be fully vaccinated one week after your second dose of Pfizer and two weeks after your second dose of Moderna and AstraZeneca. If you have received Janssen, you should not regard yourself as fully vaccinated until two weeks after."

The number of Covid-19 patients in hospital rose to 217, compared to 177 a week ago. Of these, 34 are in intensive care, up from 27 at the beginning of last week.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) said yesterday the number of patients on trolleys reached 381, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

The worst hit were Cork University Hospital, University Hospital Limerick, University Hospital Galway, Sligo University Hospital and Mayo University Hospital.

The figure compares to over 700 in pre-pandemic 2019.

A spokesman for the Limerick hospital said there were 12 patients on corridors in the emergency department. The number of Covid-19 patients in the hospital has risen to 21 in recent days and there is a continuing need to stream Covid and the non-Covid people.

The HSE emergency departments are seeing more ambulatory care and people coming in for episodic care. There are also more people coming in for deferred care as a result of Covid-19 surges, cancellations or due to the recent cyber attack.

Measures taken include some cancellation of non-emergency procedures and clinics as well as use of private hospitals.

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