Covid booster shots alone will not get us out of the current crisis. But compared to some other measures they’re an easy win. Many cannot get the extra protection quick enough, but we’ve heard that up to half of the appointments in some vaccination centres are ‘no-shows’ . Here is what we know so far.
The over-50s, residents in nursing homes, healthcare workers and people aged 16-59 years with underlying conditions are now eligible.
People who are very immuno-compromised are given what is called an additional vaccine rather than a booster, at least two months after being fully vaccinated.
Booster vaccinations for older age groups have been underway since October, so they had a head start.
What is different about getting a booster shot compared to the first doses?
It is just one shot. But you must be at least five months from full vaccination before you can get the booster. So people in their 60s who did not get a second AstraZeneca vaccine until August will wait until January for a booster.
Are there any exceptions?
The booster shot for people who got the one-jab Johnson and Johnson vaccine can be given after three months. The recommendation is made by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
The one-shot jab was given to around 236,000 people, including those in their 50s, as well as many young people who got it in a pharmacy.
Should I make contact with the HSE or will they inform me when I am due?
The over-70s are being boosted by GPs and are being invited for a jab. Nursing home residents have been boosted on-site. The rest are getting their jabs at HSE vaccination centres.
You will get a text with an appointment. If you cannot attend your appointment time, you can ask for a new one. If you would like to change to a different vaccination centre, call HSE Live on 1800-700-700. But some vaccination centres are no longer open.
Why are there ‘no-shows’, given the level of virus out there?
It could be a combination of factors. The vaccination centre may be too far away.
HSE chief Paul Reid said it could be that people feel secure with their first full course of vaccination.
Donegal GP Dr Denis McCauley of the Irish Medical Organisation said he does not believe it is apathy. But he suggested that, unlike the intensity of the first roll-out, the “five to six-month rule stops the system going into hyper-drive”.
He said: “I would encourage everyone when they get their text to go.”
What does Niac say about the need and benefit of boosters?
It says many things have contributed to the surge in new infections – the highly infectious Delta variant, the waning of immunity following vaccination, the increasing social mixing, and the time lapse since vaccination. Taken together, they increase the risk of severe disease in those with underlying conditions.
Age, immune status, and the presence of underlying conditions are the main factors in determining the severity of breakthrough disease in the fully vaccinated.
Of fully vaccinated patients admitted to intensive care between April 1 and October 30, 98pc had an underlying condition and 35pc died.
Booster doses given to those aged 80 years and older have so far have been followed by a sharp decline in case numbers in that age group. There is evidence of the infection rate slowing down in those aged 75 to 79.
Are there any other recommendations of note in its latest advice?
Niac says that for those aged 16-29 years, a full dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be given six months or longer following completion of a primary two-dose course.
It decided not to recommend that people under 30 get the Moderna vaccine as a precaution. The European Medicines Agency is currently looking at reports that there could be a higher rate of myocarditis in young men who got that jab.
It said that for people aged 30 and over, the Pfizer jab or a half dose of Moderna could be given.
What will happen with people aged 60-69 who waited until the summer to get a second dose of AstraZeneca?
Most were vaccinated from mid July to early August. Many will wait until early 2022 for a booster.