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Omicron fight Vaccinating kids should take priority over boosters for people not at risk, says professor

Professor Paul Moynagh, of Maynooth University, has said available resources should be directed at vaccinating the five to 12-year-old cohort

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Vaccinating children should be prioritised ahead of boosting adults who are not at risk of serious illness to reduce transmission of the Omicron variant, an immunology professor has said.

Professor Paul Moynagh, of Maynooth University, has said available resources should be directed at vaccinating the five to 12-year-old cohort ahead of boosting younger adults who are not at risk of serious illness because they have already received two doses of a vaccine.

The vaccine for the five to 12-year-old cohort is slightly different to the adult version so it would not be a competition for vaccines, Prof Moynagh pointed out, but he said all rollout resources should be skewed towards getting unvaccinated children some degree of protection in the coming weeks.

An updated vaccination plan for school children five and older will be released this week alongside an updated booster programme.

“We’ve probably protected most of the vulnerable people, it was really important and it was the right thing to do with a targeted booster campaign initially to the most vulnerable and moving down the age groups.

“When we get into the younger age groups, those groups, even if they get exposed to other variants, tend to not end up with serious illness.

“The best use of vaccines at the minute is to give them to people who have not been vaccinated. Primary school children, we know the incidence is very high and probably highest in that cohort.

“It depends what your objective is. If it’s to reduce transmission then it would be good to use them [resources] in children. There are two different vaccines, the dose used for five to 12-year-olds is a lower dose, so it’s not a situation where you’re going to be competing for vaccines, but in terms of resources to roll them out, it’s probably better to focus on children,” Prof Moynagh said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

While the antibodies produced by two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine are not as effective at stopping people from contracting Omicron as they were against Delta, the different T cell immunity generated will protect against severe illness in most people for “many months and maybe many years”, Prof Moynagh said.

He said that no variant so far has been able to evade the T cell immunity and would expect this is also the case with Omicron were different in this respect as the T cells still recognise enough of the mutated spikes of the virus to trigger a response.

Prof Moynagh said antibodies generated by vaccines tend to last only three to four months and then wane so it remains to be seen with the booster campaign how long the booster will protect against infection for.
 

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