Expert cautions against over-reliance on Covid boosters

Vaccine boosters should not be used to “paper over the cracks in whatever situation we’re in”, a virologist has warned.

Dr Gerald Barry, Assistant Professor of Virology in UCD, said Covid-19 vaccines “are not designed to protect us against infection, they’re designed to reduce the risk of severe illness”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said the current vaccine regime has protected people from severe illness, hospitalisation and death from Covid-19.

Dr Barry said he does agree “to an extent” with a plan to give boosters to people over 65 in long-term residential care and the over 80s living in the community.

He said: “If you’re trying reduce infections as much as possible, one could argue that a booster might achieve that. But actually, we don’t really fully know because the data is only still coming out, whether it will fully achieve that or not and we also don’t know what long term benefits it will bring.”

Dr Barry said a variant specific booster should be used, as what is being proposed is to give people a booster shot of the same vaccine that was designed to protect against the “Wuhan strain”.

He said he would love Ireland to stand up and say it is not going to give booster shots to people who do not need it, but, he added, “unfortunately, the Government has decided to put all their eggs in the vaccine basket”.

Meanwhile, Irish citizens who received their Covid-19 vaccinations in Northern Ireland and other non-EU countries will be able to obtain a digital Covid certificate through an online portal.

The Government is creating the portal following the initial roll-out of the EU digital Covid certificates earlier this summer.

It’s expected this portal could go live later this week.

Irish citizens vaccinated outside the European Union with vaccines authorised for use in Ireland will be eligible to apply.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, which has responsibility for e-Government, said the portal is “being advanced on a cross departmental basis involving technical and process development and resource management”.

It said an announcement on the launch of this portal will be made “shortly”.

Latest coronavirus stories

Yesterday, Health Service Executive Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said case numbers in Ireland are still high, but the link between cases and harm is falling.

He said the country was entering a different scenario in relation to Covid-19 as a result of the vaccination drive and take up and this “may open up choices”.

As of this morning there were 309 people with Covid-19 being treated in hospital, down from 321 on the same time yesterday.

Of these, 60 patients with the virus are in intensive care, an increase of two.

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