By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Vaccines adapted for the Omicron variant of Covid-19 will be available as booster jabs from next month to those who are eligible, the Department of Health has said.
Doses of the adapted bivalent vaccines have already been delivered to Ireland.
Adapted bivalent Covid-19 boosters include components of the original virus strain of Sars-CoV-2 and the Omicron variant.
The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended that bivalent mRNA vaccines be made available for people aged 12 years and older who are eligible for a booster vaccine.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has accepted the recommendations, which were endorsed by the interim chief medical officer Professor Breda Smyth.
📢🚨 Pleased to announce that vaccines adapted to Covid variants will be introduced to our #COVID19 Booster programme from next month.
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) September 16, 2022
First booster doses are being offered to children aged five to 11 with weak immune systems, and people aged 12 and older.
A second booster is being offered to a variety of people ahead of the winter period, including people aged 50-64, and those aged 12 or older with conditions that could put them at high risk of Covid-19.
Women who are more than 16 weeks’ pregnant, those aged 12 or older living in long-term care facilities, and healthcare workers are also eligible for a second booster.
Mr Donnelly said the adapted vaccines will play “a significant role in Ireland’s autumn/winter vaccination campaign”.
He added: “Officials in my Department have secured access to adapted bivalent vaccines through participation (in partnership with the European Commission and other Member States), in the EU’s Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy.
“Doses of bivalent adapted vaccines have already been delivered to Ireland thanks to provisions of Purchase Agreements negotiated by the Commission as part of the EU’s Covid Strategy.”
Prof Smyth stressed: “It is really important that anyone yet to receive any course of Covid-19 vaccine does so as soon as possible and that anyone for whom a booster dose is recommended makes arrangements to receive that booster.”
The HSE will include bivalent booster vaccines in the vaccination programme from early October, when the flu vaccine programme is due to begin.
From next month, anyone who is eligible for both a flu vaccine and a Covid-19 booster can receive them at the same time from participating GPs and pharmacies, so long as it has been at least four months since their last Covid-19 vaccine or infection.