The Omicron wave is over, the Minister for Health has said today.
But there is a possibility that even booster-jabbed people may need a fourth jab this Autumn.
Stephen Donnelly said he expects Niac, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, to advise shortly on the matter.
“Certainly we're through the Omicron wave,” he said today after opening new facilities at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.
“The vaccines have worked incredibly well, but we're still dealing with an awful lot of Covid,” he said.
“Many thousands of cases been confirmed by PCR every day, and many thousand rapid testing.
“We've still got a lot of people in hospital, and we still have a number of people are in ICU. Now thankfully, the numbers in ICU are falling, although the numbers in hospital are staying reasonably high.”
Asked if there would be a need for a fourth jab, as previously suggested, that would be administered in the Autumn, Mr Donnelly said: “Niac are looking at this at the moment.
"I think it's entirely possible that Niac will come back and say that for all of us, there would be an annual vaccine so you might get your flu vaccine and your COVID vaccine at the same time.
“I'm expecting a view from Niac shortly on a fourth vaccine for those for those who are more vulnerable.”
He added: “In population terms, I think most people have moved beyond Covid and are getting on with their lives. But the reality for our hospital system and our community system that we are still very much the population at large.”
Covid was still having a very significant knock-on effect on the system, he said.
In Limerick, for example, the emergency department is under really significant pressure at the moment.
One of the challenges they have is that there are beds in the hospital that have to be used for Covid patients. They can't use the full complement of beds because of infection prevention and control.
“But also there's entire areas of the emergency department which obviously are given over to the Covid track. We'd love to be able to move beyond that, to make sure that all of the facilities are used as they were planned to be.
“The same goes in Galway, where I was last week. The situation in the emergency department in Galway is just completely unacceptable.”
Mr Donnelly said he was working with the HSE and the Department to make sure that everything that can be done to alleviate the situation will be done.
“One of the challenges they have, for example, is in getting patients discharged, and getting them out of the hospital into community.”
About half of all nursing homes are still in the 28-day cycle where they cannot accept new admissions if they've had a Covid outbreak, he said.
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