There are high numbers of cases and Covid patients in hospital “partly” due to waning vaccine immunity, according to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
r Donnelly also said that booster jabs for people aged over 60 will be rolled out “imminently”.
He also said he hopes that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) will give the green light for boosters for frontline workers shortly as he warned of a “tough winter” in healthcare.
When asked why cases remain so high even though over 90pc of the adult population has been fully vaccinated, he said that this is down partly to social interaction and waning immunity.
“Partly, as we know, it’s social interaction, we know that the disease spreads person to person, that it’s airborne.
“Partly it may be due to some waning immunity. Partly it may be due to the fact that this is a viciously contagious variant, this Delta variant that we’re dealing with, unfortunately,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said that he hopes that a “green light” for vaccine boosters for frontline workers will come soon.
His comments came as Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said this morning that he was “surprised” that a booster campaign has not yet been approved for healthcare workers.
“I would like to see us get the green light for boosters for frontline workers,” said Mr Donnelly.
“We are now seeing, from studies around the world, waning immunity after a particular time period.
“It’s going to be a tough winter in healthcare, as we go into the winter, we’ve got to be doing everything we can,” said Mr Donnelly.
“If there’s one thing that Covid has taught us and other governments is that you don’t know what could happen in the future. Two weeks ago, the trajectory here was very good,” he said.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has admitted the Government is “worried” about healthcare workers on the frontline in the battle against Covid-19 who are not being offered booster vaccines.
Mr Martin welcomed Niac’s decision to clear the way for booster shots for over-60s but said lack of advice on vaccines for healthcare workers is an “issue of concern”.
“We are worried about health care workers who are in the frontline. And there’s increasing evidence of potentially hospital acquired infection because of the higher prevalence now of the virus in the community at large.
“When that happens, it tends to manifest itself in healthcare settings as well, which places staff in more difficult situations,” he added.
Mr Martin said Niac advised “consistently” throughout the vaccination programme which he said has been part of the campaign’s success.
“We have achieved 93pc (of people) fully vaccinated, which is an extraordinary achievement globally. And I think we have to accept that illustrates that people have confidence in the vaccination programme. One of the reasons people have confidence in the vaccination programme is that sense that there’s professional clinical expertise underpinning decisions around the administration of the vaccine,” he said.