The daily vaccination rate in Ireland has doubled in recent days amid an intensified campaign to reach the unjabbed, the head of the programme has said.
Since Thursday last week, numbers coming forward for vaccines have risen from between 800 to 1,000 a day to 2,000, according to Damien McCallion, the national director of the HSE’s vaccination programme.
Mr McCallion said the rise may appear small in the context of trying to reach around 360,000 people who are not fully vaccinated but he said it was still important in the efforts to reduce the number of Covid patients in ICUs – more than 60% of whom are unvaccinated.
The senior HSE official said a campaign would be running over the coming 10 days to target certain specific groups.
These include the medically vulnerable, pregnant women and people who have received a first dose but not come forward for a second.
Geographic areas of the country with relatively low uptake rates will also be focused on as part of the campaign.
“In Ireland, (among) the adult population over 18, we have the highest vaccination rates in Europe, so I suppose that’s our baseline which we’re coming from, but we know there’s a small percentage of people, for various reasons, who may not be able to get the vaccine or may not wish to receive it,” Mr McCallion told RTE Radio One.
“What we’re focusing on now and what we’ve seen some positive figures on in recent days, is since Thursday we’ve jumped from around 800 to 1,000 a day to over 2,000 a day.
“And while they may seem small, it’s important to set these in the context of our hospital ICU figures.
“So we have a campaign running over the next 10 days over that Halloween midterm, which has an overall element to it in terms of trying to attract people to come forward who aren’t vaccinated, to give them more information in relation to the benefits of the vaccine and indeed risk, but also to try and encourage them for their own health, for their family’s health and for the wider community.”
Mr McCallion said vaccines were being made available in hospitals, particularly in maternity facilities, to give people the opportunity to receive a jab when they come in for medical appointments.
Since Thursday we've jumped from around 800 to 1,000 a day to around to over 2,000 a day.Damien McCallion
The programme director indicated the rollout of booster jabs to the eligible cohorts was progressing well.
Asked whether it should be extended to healthcare workers, he said there was growing concern among staff over their daily exposure to the virus.
He said around 1,800 workers were absent from work due to Covid-19 reasons, either as result of symptoms or because they were a close contact of a positive case.
Mr McCallion stressed it was for the National Immunisation Advisory Committee to advise on how the booster roll out should proceed.
But he said the HSE was planning to ensure a quick roll out of booster jabs to healthcare staff if NIAC recommended the move.
“From an operational perspective at the HSE we’re making contingency plans so that when that advice comes we can move fairly quickly,” he said.
There were a further 1,845 confirmed cases of Covid-19 reported in Ireland on Monday.
As of Monday morning, there were 497 patients in hospitals with the disease, with 99 of those in intensive care units.