Urgency required to ensure full vaccination of 60-69 year olds in face of fourth wave
- Government decision to listen to opposition and allow pharmacists to vaccinate welcome.
- Use of Pfizer as second dose needs to be urgently considered after findings by new UK study.
- Young people cannot be left behind when reopening happens, with antigen testing key to addressing the issue.
Labour leader Alan Kelly has called on the Government to move with urgency to fully vaccinate the 60 to 69 year old age cohort in the face of a likely fourth wave of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant. Kelly welcomed the government heeding his advice to use the pharmacists network to vaccinate younger people with the Janssen vaccine from Monday, and called for consideration of using the Pfizer vaccine as a 2nd dose for 60-69 year olds who have received AstraZenaca, after a UK clinical study found this method to be effective.
Deputy Kelly said:
“The HSE have played a blinder on rolling out the vaccine to date. Vaccinators up and down the country have been working flat out to ensure that we are all protected in the race against the Delta variant.
“The grim message from the CMO yesterday that we are facing an impending fourth wave is deeply concerning. I welcome the Government’s decision to allow the pharmacy network to vaccinate younger people from Monday, which will be a huge boost to the vaccine programme. We have enough vaccine stocks to fully vaccinate over 3 million people, and so urgency in the distribution network is critical in the race between variants and vaccines. We need to ensure that the 60-69 year old age cohort receive their second doses as soon as possible to ensure they have maximum possible protection against the Delta variant.
“The race is on – it’s vaccines versus variants. This week’s UK study which showed that mixing vaccines has a good immune response should be considered as soon as possible by NIAC. If taking such an approach is approved, and can speed up the rate of vaccination, then it should be pursued.
“The message of ‘we’re all in this together’ needs to be remembered by Government. There can’t be any pitting of age groups against each other when reopening happens. It is not right, not fair and it flies in the face of social solidarity. This issue could be addressed to a large degree by rapid antigen testing. As the first TD to raise the usefulness of antigen testing in the Dáil, we need every business to be ready and prepared to use antigen testing if and when it is approved by the new sub-group that are examining it.
“Minister Donnelly said on Morning Ireland this morning that nobody had asked previously about a vaccine passport. That is not true, as I asked questions in the Dáil last year on whether or not the Government was considering it. We also need to know what the plan is for the vaccination of children, and whether or not children will require a COVID passport for hospitality.”