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Booster Covid-19 doses for people with weak immune systems to roll out from this week

Erik G

THE HSE IS beginning to offer booster vaccines against Covid-19 to people with weakened immune systems from this week.

The health service has confirmed that people aged 12 and over who are immunocompromised will be able to receive an additional vaccine dose, starting with over-16s.

The dose will either be of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, both of which use mRNA technology, regardless of the person’s initial vaccine type.

Appointments for adults and teenagers aged 16 and up will start this week, while 12 to 15-year-olds will need to wait longer as they received their initial vaccine course more recently.

“As the vaccination programme for the 12 years to 15 years started later, those aged 12 years to 15 years who have been identified for an additional dose will be offered an appointment at a later date,” the HSE said.

“This is to facilitate the two month minimum interval from their last dose of Covid-19 vaccine.” 

People eligible for an additional dose are those aged 12 and over who have certain health conditions or are undergoing treatments that mean they are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed.

According to the HSE, hospitals will identify those who need an additional dose and people will receive a text message with an appointment to be vaccinated.

The doses are to be given through a vaccination centre, or in a hospital for inpatients, and GPs may also vaccinate some people. 

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said that it “has been shown that people with weakened immune systems do not generate a full immune response to their first two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine”.

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“This additional dose we are offering will mean they will get the maximum benefit from their primary vaccination course, giving them better protection against the serious effects of Covid-19,” Henry said.

Last week, HSE CEO Paul Reid said the health service expected the first appointments for booster doses to be issued by yesterday and for the programme to run for around five to six weeks.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) recommended that a booster dose be given to over 65s living in residential care and anyone over the age of 80, later extending its advice to include immunocompromised people aged 12 and over. 

“If people are not contacted, it most likely is an indication that they’re not in that higher risk category,” Reid said.

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