The Taoiseach has said that many people he met while on a trip to the United States could not believe the level of Covid vaccine uptake in Ireland.
90 per cent of Ireland’s population aged 16 or older is vaccinated against Covid-19. In Waterford, the county with the highest rate of uptake in the country, 99.7 per cent of the adult population has received at least one dose.
Speaking at the close of his visit to New York for United Nations meetings, Micheál Martin said according to The Irish Times that people he met during his trip could not believe the Irish figures.
“In many parts of the United States, they are at 50 per cent in some states, less in others,” he added.
Mr Martin also said that he has “no issue” with the principle of vaccinating children aged five and over against Covid-19, provided it is in line with public health advice.
Children aged 5 and over
His comments come after Pfizer and BioNTech said their Covid-19 vaccine was safe for use for children aged five to 11.
Pfizer and BioNTech said they plan to share their data with regulators in Europe, paving the way for approval in Ireland by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC).
Mr Martin said he had “no issue with the principle of that [vaccinating children aged five to 11] but I would be bound by public health guidance in respect of it.”
“Public health will have to weigh up the benefits for the child in respect of receiving the vaccine, as opposed to the risks to the child,” he said.
“So that will have to be a public health and clinical issue that would be assessed in the first instance by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee and by the public health officials, particularly the chief medical officer [Dr Tony Holohan].”
There is a point in time when we’ve got to say the vaccines need to be used elsewhere
Mr Martin said children were already vaccinated “in a whole range of other areas.”
“So, I’m of the view in terms of the advance of humankind, that vaccines overall have been extremely effective historically, in dealing with many, many virus and issues, but it remains to be seen in terms of the risk assessment,” he said.
However, the Taoiseach also added that the low level of vaccination in developing countries would have to be taken into account as the issue is considered.
“We have to be conscious [that] Africa is at very low single digit numbers — one, two, three per cent in some countries in Africa. So there is a point in time when we’ve got to say the vaccines need to be used elsewhere,” he said.
“So all frontline healthcare workers, for example, in less developed regions should now get priority and we have to really up the level of vaccination in less developed regions.
“So these are considerations we will have to seriously take on board as a country because the mutations will grow, variants will arise if we’ve whole parts of the world not vaccinated.”