Thursday, 1 April 2021
Vaccination Programme and Covid-19: Statements
I thank the Deputy for his questions. The reason NIAC made its proposal, the reason NPHET endorsed it and the reason I brought it to the Cabinet and the Cabinet agreed to it was the very strong evidence that the single biggest predictor in terms of risk is age, particularly when, as we are aware, those with underlying conditions are already prioritised in cohorts 4 and 7, for example. The group we are now talking about comprises people who do not have underlying conditions. Let me give the Deputy and other colleagues a sense of how strong the link is. A person in his or her early 50s is three times more likely to be hospitalised, ten times more likely to end up in intensive care and 15 times more likely to die than someone in his or her 20s or 30s. A person in his or her early 60s, who will be part of the first group in terms of prioritisation, is five times more likely to be hospitalised, more than 20 times more likely to end up in intensive care and more than 70 times more likely to die than someone in his or her 20s or 30s. As I am sure all colleagues have been doing, I have been talking to essential workers and front-line workers, including teachers. I hear from every teacher and front-line worker I talk to about these figures that if I am telling them the people I am prioritising are 20, 40 or 70 times more likely to die than they are, they should be vaccinated first.
In many cases, they note that age cohort includes their mum or dad or aunt or uncle and then they ask us to vaccinate them first.
The final issue, which was raised by many Deputies, relates to the fact that classrooms are crowded, which we accept. NIAC looked at outbreaks in all sectors in Ireland to date. The only sector it found where there was a significantly higher risk of illness, hospitalisation or death for workers was healthcare and, therefore, that sector was prioritised.
If I could make one final point-----