Ireland is currently in a “good place” in the Covid-19 pandemic with a wall of immunity protecting society from the worst effects of the virus, according to a professor of immunovirology.
The number of Covid patients in intensive care has dropped by almost a third over the past 12 days, with 66 people currently receiving critical care – the lowest number since October 5th last year.
A total of 649 people are in hospital with the virus on Saturday, down 58 from the day before, in the lowest figure to date this year.
Professor of immunovirology at University College Cork, Liam Fanning, said he is hopeful that daily case numbers will further decrease.
“I think we’re very well-equipped immunologically, we have a population that’s over 93 per cent vaccinated and a large portion of them have received their third shot,” he told Newstalk radio.
“And we have many individuals, well over about 1.5 million who have been actually infected by this particular virus as well, so we have a wall of immunity protecting society as a whole – so we are actually in a very good place.”
Prof Fanning said the Omicron variant, combined with vaccination, is a major factor in falling hospitalisation rates for the virus.
“The characteristics of this Omicron variant changed significantly. It didn’t infect the same part of the lungs as Delta, it was more upper respiratory, more up near your throat and that kind of area within the lungs, and it didn’t seem to cause the overwhelming disease that Delta caused, and therefore the case admission rate to hospital was less,” he said.
“So you had this dual carriageway really of the virus changing its characteristics, the human population – certainly I suppose in the more developed countries initially getting access to the vaccine – and that actually changing the trajectory of the landscape.
“[This] started out as a viral landscape where nobody was immune, to a landscape where we had those that had been previously infected immune, to those who had been vaccinated to have some immunity.”
It comes as the HSE said the rate of people getting a booster vaccine has “slowed down considerably” during January. Just 62,000 people are getting a booster every week at present, compared to about 300,000 last month.
Earlier on Saturday a Covid vaccine manufactured by Novavax became the fifth to be authorised for use in Ireland, with its rollout expected from next month.