Thursday, 1 April 2021
Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements
I thank the Deputy for his questions. Antigen testing is a matter the Deputy and I have been discussing for some time. I am of the view that there is a greater role for it than we have seen to date. I appointed an expert group, led by Professor Mark Ferguson, to examine this issue. The group has reported back and I am publishing the report today. It is important to note that there are highly credible experts on both sides of the argument, some of whom are very strong supporters of rapid testing and others of whom have valid concerns about some of the risks associated with it. Nonetheless, having heard the various views, my view is that there is a greater role for it. I am launching the report today and I will be working with various Departments to support the ramping up of rapid testing.
With regard to the research on vaccinating according to age, NIAC conducted extensive research on both domestic and international evidence. We have seen a very strong link between the risk of Covid and age. It is also important to note there is a strong link with occupation. NIAC examined the data on clusters and outbreaks in Ireland and on the various sectors. The only sector found to have a significantly higher risk of severe illness or death from Covid was the healthcare sector. That really underlined the recommendations made, which NPHET brought to me earlier this week.