By Cate McCurry, PA
Almost all fully vaccinated patients in intensive care units have an underlying condition, the Minister for Health has said.
More than 630,000 Covid booster jabs had been administered by Tuesday, and people with underlying health conditions will start to receive them from next week.
Stephen Donnelly said the programme to roll out boosters to all residents in long-term residential care is “substantially complete”.
“Most of the immunocompromised have either had a booster vaccine or have been offered a booster vaccine,” he said.
“About half of our healthcare workers and half of those in their 70s have now received a booster vaccine.
“One group that I’ve been very keen to have the booster vaccine made available as quickly as possible is those with underlying conditions.
“I was delighted yesterday to be able to put that in place with the HSE, such that those with underlying conditions will start being offered the booster from next week.
“This is cohorts four and seven from the initial booster campaign, and it’s very important.
Face coverings help to reduce the spread of #COVID19. They should:
➡cover the nose & go under the chin
➡fit snugly against the side of the face
➡be secured with ties or ear loops
➡include at least 2 layers of fabric
➡allow for unrestricted breathing pic.twitter.com/bSav1HGWez
— HSE Ireland (@HSELive) November 25, 2021
“Over 80 per cent of our Covid ICU patients have an underlying condition and, for our vaccinated Covid ICU patients, the figure is 98 per cent.
“Ninety-eight percent of them have underlying conditions, so obviously this group is essential in terms of keeping people safe.”
Addressing the Private Hospitals Association Conference, Mr Donnelly said the mounting evidence on the booster vaccines in Ireland and in countries including Israel and the UK is “very, very encouraging”.
But he said the epidemiological situation in Ireland is concerning.
In his opening remarks, he said the continuing high transmission rates and growing case numbers are having a real impact on society.
“They are continuing to place an unsustainable strain on our health services,” he added.
The Fianna Fáil minister has also vowed to increase the number of ICU beds to 340 by 2023.
Before the pandemic, Ireland had 255 critical beds, which Mr Donnelly described as “completely inadequate”.
“A total of €52 million was provided this year to fund an additional 66 permanent beds,” Mr Donnelly added.
“Forty-two of those are now open, bringing our baseline critical care capacity to 297 and more will be open before the end of the year.
“The HSE has been funded to increase critical care capacity by the end of next year or early into 2023 to 340 beds.
“Beyond the immediate targets, we propose to develop new critical care facilities at five prioritised sites at Beaumont, St James, the Mater, St Vincent’s and CUH (Cork University Hospital).
“A total of 117 additional will be added. That’ll bring the total permanent base capacity to 446 beds.”