All people eligible for the Covid-19 booster will be offered the new Omicron vaccines from early next month – but they can be for different strains of the variant.
Some people will be offered a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to protect against the BA.1 form of Omicron that was circulated here earlier this year.
Pfizer’s vaccine to protect against BA.4 and the current dominant form BA.5 of Omicron will be offered to others.
The HSE Yesterday, it confirmed that it had “secured supplies of appropriate vaccines for eligible groups”, starting next month.
However, the Pfizer vaccine that protects everyone from the main form of Omicron, BA.5, which now causes most infections, will not be offered.
They could be offered a separate vaccine targeting the BA.1 strain that hit Ireland earlier this year and is made by Pfizer and Moderna.
Bivalent vaccines are the first to provide protection against Omicron and the original Wuhan variant.
Existing vaccines will continue to be used for primary vaccination as people are vaccinated for the first time. Health, Safety and Environment said these are “very effective vaccines.” Only eligible persons under the age of 29 will be given Pfizer Boosters.
Scientists say any of the new Omicron vaccines will provide broader protection.
It comes as Ireland-born Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization, deplored the “collapse” in Covid-19 surveillance, and warned that the pandemic was far from over.
He said the decline in testing in many countries would mean that new and potentially dangerous Covid-19 variants would not be caught early.
Don’t assume that if there is a new variable health workers, many of whom have PTSD, can return to the level of severity two years ago.
“Testing systems have become so poor that we are blind in one eye or perhaps about the development of the virus. It is very short-sighted as winter approaches.”
He cautioned against complacency and said that although the end of the emergency phase of the epidemic is nearing, we are “not there yet” and the drop in surveillance could leave countries in real trouble.
He was speaking at a webinar organized by the UCC School of Public Health and its Center for Global Development that explored the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic and solutions to prevent future public health challenges.
When asked what advice he would give Irish health authorities at this point, he said: “Keep decisions smart and don’t underestimate the risks.”
The authorities here need to reassess the risks, gauge whether it is appropriately tracing the virus, check whether the most vulnerable are vaccinated and make sure GPs are equipped to provide the appropriate antivirals to patients at risk to prevent hospitalization.
He added: “Don’t assume your health workers will be back from Earth in the middle of Christmas or New Year’s if there’s another wave. Don’t take anything for granted.
“Don’t assume that if there is a new variable that health workers, many of whom have PTSD, can go back to the level of severity they had two years ago.”
He added that there were still significant risks to Covid and “we did not calculate” the possibility of a bad flu season.
Dr. Ryan also spoke about attacks, threats and abuse targeting health workers on platforms like social media during the pandemic and said that while working in some of the world’s toughest regions, he personally was never afraid.
While this does not reflect the majority of people, he said, there was a “dark ocean”.