There is currently no evidence of increased hospitalisation or death in fully vaccinated healthcare workers, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) said today.
Niac is under pressure from the Government and unions to extend booster Covid 19 vaccine doses to healthcare workers.
However, in its advice to chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, the expert body said while it is keeping the issue under review for other groups, including healthcare workers, there is evidence to suggest that vaccine effectiveness for symptomatic disease in healthcare workers is the same as the general population.
"Niac will continue to examine new evidence regarding the durability of protection of the primary vaccine series in other groups.
"These groups include those younger than 60 years of age with comorbidities – other than those who are immunocompromised for whom recommendations have already been issued for an additional primary vaccination."
It also includes "healthcare workers – recognising their vital role in providing essential health services
"Currently, there is no evidence of increased hospitalisation or death in fully vaccinated healthcare workers.
"There is evidence to suggest that vaccine effectiveness for symptomatic disease in healthcare workers is the same as the general population."
Niac recommended that booster shots be given to people aged 60 to 79.
The HSE expects to start rolling out the first of these in the next ten days.
According to Niac the booster shot can be given to the over 60s five months after their completed dose.
This will mean people in their sixties who received AstraZeneca will wait until the end of the year or early 2022 for the booster.
"It can be given at the same time or at any interval before or after seasonal influenza vaccine. As previously recommended, 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."
Niac said that globally, Covid-19 vaccines are a scarce resource; and recommendations for booster vaccines must be based on need and evidence driven
It said Niac fully supports the Government’s commitment to global vaccine equity and took into account vaccine supply and the potential for donation to low and middle income countries in these recommendations.
"Access to and completion of a primary vaccine series by countries is an essential prerequisite to controlling the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on a global basis. Until global control is achieved, all countries remain at risk."