The rollout of Covid-19 booster vaccines is to be extended considerably following approval from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
People aged 50-59 who have received their initial doses of the vaccine, those aged 16-59 who have an underlying condition, and all long-term healthcare facility residents (regardless of age) will now be offered the additional dose.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed Niac made the recommendation to the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Tuesday afternoon, which Dr Holohan has since endorsed.
The booster programme had previously been reserved to people over the age of 60, those with weakened immune systems and healthcare workers.
I'm announcing updates to the COVID-19 Vaccination programme. Boosters will be offered to all those aged 50-59, all remaining residents in healthcare facilities not covered previously, all those aged 16+ with underlying conditions.#ForUsAll #BoostersWork https://t.co/0dXz7TUtsa pic.twitter.com/A4yFleLnelAdvertisement
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) November 16, 2021
An mRNA vaccine will be offered to people in the specified cohorts at least five months following completion of the primary vaccination schedule, as per previous booster dose recommendations, the Department of Health said.
"If a person in a group for whom a booster dose is recommended has had laboratory confirmed Covid-19 infection after a completed primary vaccine course (i.e., a breakthrough infection), the booster dose should be delayed for at least six months after the Covid-19 infection was diagnosed," the department added.
"Niac have pointed out that the risk of vaccinated people aged 50-59 years requiring hospitalisation and becoming seriously ill and dying is higher than in younger age groups, therefore they are next in the order of priority for booster vaccination," Mr Donnelly said.
"In Ireland, we have already seen that booster doses given to those aged 80 years and older have been followed by a sharp decline in case numbers in that age group. This is very welcome news, and I encourage all of those who are eligible for a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine to come forward and receive that vaccine as soon as it is available to you," he added.
The Minister said his department will now begin work with the HSE to implement Niac's recommendations "as soon as possible".