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scary times Up to 500,000 yet to avail of Covid-19 booster as cases and hospital numbers soar again

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Some 200,000 12 to 15-year-olds recently became eligible for a booster shot. Stock image.

Some 200,000 12 to 15-year-olds recently became eligible for a booster shot. Stock image.

Booster vaccines are waning over time although they are strongly holding up in protecting people from severe disease .Stock image

Booster vaccines are waning over time although they are strongly holding up in protecting people from severe disease .Stock image

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Some 200,000 12 to 15-year-olds recently became eligible for a booster shot. Stock image.

Up to half a million people over 16 who are eligible for a booster jab have yet to come forward as the take-up of Covid-19 vaccines has dramatically slowed.

It comes as two weeks after the ditching of mandatory face masks the number of daily infections and patients with Covid-19 in hospital rose again yesterday.

It has sparked a renewed drive by the HSE to persuade people who have had two vaccines and are entitled to a booster jab, to avail of the shot.

A spokeswoman for the HSE confirmed around 700,000 people aged 16 and over are eligible for a booster although this is variable with around 200,000 who contracted the virus during the Omicron wave having to wait three months before getting the third jab.

Kingston Mills, Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College, said yesterday he is concerned about the potential risk for some of those who have had just two vaccines and he urged them to avail of a booster shot.

Those with two vaccines who have since got a relatively mild Covid-19 infection now have a good level of protection from the virus but a risk remains for some of those who are holding out on getting the booster shot.

“Some people think they do not need a booster vaccine and think the pandemic is over. The worry is that people do not see this as being necessary,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said last week 35,000 Covid-19 vaccines were administered including 21,000 first and second doses and 14,000 booster shots.

She said: “There was significant uptake of the vaccine leading up to Christmas with around 400,000 administered over a four-day period and, as expected, booster uptake has slowed since, particularly among younger people.

“The HSE would encourage all those who are eligible to avail of the vaccine as soon as eligible to reduce severe impacts of the disease.”

Apart from the over-16s, some 200,000 12 to 15-year-olds recently became eligible for a booster shot.

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital climbed to 907 yesterday – the highest since mid-January.

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However, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care dropped to 37, which is the lowest since August 12.

It comes against a background of a high level of Covid-19 circulating, with 9,186 positive PCR tests and another 6,752 testing positive at home after taking an antigen test – the highest since the face mask rule was lifted.

Although some of these positive tests were carried over from earlier in the week to Friday, the trend is still upwards.

Around half the patients in hospital with Covid-19 were diagnosed after being admitted with another illness.

Some 57pc of the Covid-19-positive patients in intensive care are there directly due to the complications of the virus.

Last week around six in 10 intensive care patients with Covid-19 were not boosted.

Prof Mills said the real level of infection is not being reflected in the figures because not everyone who tests positive at home registers with the HSE and a proportion of people with mild symptoms are not bothering with a test.

Booster vaccines are waning over time in reducing the risk of infection although they are strongly holding up in protecting people from severe disease, he added.

This is also coupled with the fact that the Omicron variant is less severe.

However, he said the more transmissible offshoot of Omicron, the sub-variant BA.2, which spreads more rapidly, is likely to be playing a role in infections.

He said he was not in favour at this point of giving a second booster vaccine and it would appear to be wiser to wait until a jab directly targeting the Omicron variant is available.

In the UK there is likely to be a second booster programme which is aimed mostly at those who are over 75 and people vulnerable to complications of the virus.

How to react to an increase in infections will become a major issue for health services which cannot always resort to another top-up jab.

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