Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Covid-19: New Measures: Statements
Alan Farrell (Dublin Fingal, Fine Gael)
It is important to highlight that the Irish people have reacted to this appropriately. They have followed the science, as has the Government, and continue to do so. It is the only way.
A great deal has been learned in the last year in particular. As noted many times, there is no handbook for society's response either in Ireland or globally. Those tough decisions have been taken with public support and have saved lives. There is really no other issue to be discussed. We have one of the lowest per capitadeath rates in the world and compared with our European partners we have performed extremely well. When I say "we", I mean the Irish people. At all times, the Government has faced extremely difficult circumstances and has been guided by the medical and scientific community. While there have been a few differences along the way, in the main the vast majority of medics have agreed with the approach adopted.
The vaccination programme has been an extraordinary success both in its uptake and the trust that people placed in it, but also in the work done by the HSE and Department of Health in getting it rolled out. There were some initial supply issues, but in the end we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. That is an extraordinary testament to the Irish people. It is imperative that anyone who remains unvaccinated speaks to a GP. They should speak to a trusted family practitioner or, if they have access to an epidemiologist or virologist, they should speak to them. With the exception of those who might have medical conditions or who took a dose and had an adverse reaction, something I am sure has happened in every constituency, by now it is evident given the numbers of vaccinated and unvaccinated in ICU and hospitalisation that there is a clear pathway to ensuring that we continue to protect one another and avoid unnecessary death as a result of the virus.
The recent European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ECDC, chart proves that. It shows the level of vaccinations with Ireland at the top of the graph at 93%. Bulgaria is at the bottom with 29%. However the stark reality is that Ireland has 15 deaths versus Bulgaria's 325 per million. The populations are 5 million here and 7 million there, so it is not far off in being an appropriate comparator.
The ECDC also reported on the case numbers in hospitals in Ireland, Luxembourg and Slovakia. It showed that 2.5 persons per 100,000 in hospital were vaccinated with the balance being unvaccinated, which was 7.5 persons per 100,000. Those figures are extremely stark. Some of the consequential death rates around the world, then, are avoidable. To emphasise that, between April and November of 626 people admitted to ICU with Covid 19, some 63% had not received a Covid vaccination. The data cannot be clearer. We must also ensure that the third dose, or booster, campaign is rolled-out with the same efficiency that we saw with the initial vaccination programme, and in particular the use of our regional facilities, GPs, pharmacies and others, to get it out as quickly as is we possibly can. I welcomed, with some relief, the Minister's remark that 300,000 is now the weekly possibility for the third dose programme. That is up from 230,000. However, we must also be cognisant of the different rates of efficacy of the vaccines already administered. MRNA vaccines are more effective in the long term and non-MRNA vaccines, particularly that of Johnson & Johnson, is waning, as the Minister and others have noted.
While the age-based approach is of course the correct thing to do, we must have a conversation about when the cohort who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be vaccinated again.