Booster jab rollout to intensify next week as the government prepares to approve the wearing of masks for children aged nine and over

The rollout of booster vaccines will be stepped up amid fears that the potentially highly infectious new variant of Covid-19 will soon spread in this country.

Here are concerns that the newly classified variant of concern could put people at an increased risk of re-infection.

It comes as Ireland continues to grapple with the more immediate threat of the delta surge that has spiked cases of the virus soaring.

The new variant, named Omicron, appears to be on the increase in all provinces of South Africa and has been found in Belgium.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “this variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are worrying.”

“Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant compared to other variants of concern,” he said.

Testing for the variant is to begin at the National Virus Reference Laboratory in Ireland with the aim of detecting any cases, targeting confirmed cases with a particular travel history.

The European Center for Disease Control, in a threat assessment last night, called on countries to consider recalls for all adults, prioritizing those over 40.

The HSE is expected to roll out up to 220,000 booster shots and a third vaccine next week in a bid to curb the decline in immunity.

Anyone over the age of 16 who has received at least five months of a full bite should be offered a booster injection according to yesterday’s new recommendations..

People who have received the Johnson & Johnson single injection vaccine will be offered a booster after three months.

An HSE spokesperson said: “Next week we plan to do well over 200,000 booster and additional doses, and probably 220,000.”

He also confirmed that the contract to use Dublin’s Aviva Stadium as a vaccination center has come to an end and that the HSE believes it has sufficient capacity in the region with five other venues, including Croke Park.

The goal is to increase the rollout to 270,000 injections per week, but it is still below the 300,000 vaccines per week provided by the HSE over the summer.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said last night parents should follow the recommendations of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and keep children away from gatherings inside such as games and birthday parties and not be involved in nurseries.

An official notice on these restrictions is expected to be released next week.

The counseling was for the next two weeks and followed the high levels of infection in the five to 12 year olds, who have the highest incidence of the virus, he added.

Cabinet is expected to give the green light to Nphet’s recommendation that mask wear for children aged nine and over be mandatory on public transport and in shops.

He also said elementary school children should wear face masks from the third grade.

In his letter to Mr Donnelly, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said schools and daycares should continue to operate.

“We are currently experiencing a very high incidence in children between the ages of five and 12, and as such, it is important to take steps to interrupt chains of transmission in order to protect these core priorities,” he said. declared.

This is because some parents of elementary school students may not send them to school if they are required to wear a mask, according to the National Parents Council (NPC). The board has received more calls about this than for any other issue, with at least 1,300 registered by mid-afternoon yesterday, according to NPC CEO Ine Lynch.

“No one rang to say he was happy; they all said they were very upset, very worried, ”Lynch said.

Ms Lynch said a recommendation or advice on wearing masks for children was one thing “but a situation which deprived parents of their choice would be a problem.”

She said they “would hate to see that after working for so long to keep schools open, something would happen that created a situation where parents felt they didn’t want to send their children to school.”

It comes as 4,620 new cases of the virus were reported yesterday.

There were 571 Covid-19 patients in the hospital, 118 of whom were in intensive care.

In his letter following Nphet’s meeting, Dr Holohan said Ireland remains vulnerable to a further deterioration in the disease profile depending on a number of factors, including levels of social contact in the communities. weeks to come and during the holiday season, observance of the basic principles of public health protection. measures and levels of immunity in the population.

He said the number of deaths per day was increasing very slowly, to around seven, or 200 deaths per month.

“It may increase, given the very high number of cases, although booster vaccination in the elderly may mitigate this,” he said.

“There continues to be a significant number of reported outbreaks in settings with vulnerable populations. “

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