Infectious diseases expert Dr Gabriel Scally has said that Ireland should review its decision not to use the AstraZeneca vaccine on the over-65s and consider a single dose policy to reduce the number of cases.
Micheál Martin should contact UK prime minister Boris Johnson to request extra vaccines for Ireland, he told Newstalk Breakfast.
Keeping the variants out of the country was the most important strategy, he said, even a single dose offered protection from death and hospitalisation.
Dr Scally also called for “strong restrictions” and “a really tight lockdown” to stay in place until the number of cases was brought down.
Public health zones should be introduced at local level to follow cases, with stronger testing and tracing and more “backward tracing” he said.
Get the numbers down to zero, keep them there and then reopen.
A voluntary isolation policy was “completely daft” at a time when there were so many variants that could have an impact on the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Cooperation with Northern Ireland was also very important especially given how effective their vaccination programme has been to date, he added. This was a real opportunity to drive the numbers down.
Dr Scally said he had never been in favour of not giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to the over-65s, yes there had been an evidence gap in trials, but there was no evidence to suggest that it would not be effective in that age group.
AstraZeneca was effective across all age groups and even with only a single dose there had been a “substantial drop” in new cases in the UK.
Using just a single dose to vaccinate more people was an opportunity to bring down numbers, reduce hospitalisations and deaths, he said.