Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Covid-19: New Measures: Statements
Joan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
It is becoming very clear that the Covid-19 vaccines are not the silver bullet we thought they were going to be or could be. Despite our 93% vaccination rate, we are now in a fourth wave of what may be more of an endemic than a pandemic. I believe Covid-19 is here for the foreseeable future, with all that entails, such as future mutations and new variants.
Currently, Europe is at the epicentre of an outbreak. Despite our generally high vaccination rate in comparison to only 8% of the population of Africa, a new wave of Covid on that continent could be devastating and with consequences for the rest of the world. It seems there is a variety of reasons for the current situation in Europe - relaxation of restrictions, opening up, pandemic fatigue and slippage regarding masks, social distancing and socialising, and also the waning of vaccine efficacy. There is a relatively high number of unvaccinated people throughout Europe and high rates of Covid among children aged five to 11. It struck me when I saw the report from Dr. Tony Holohan that this is the highest group in terms of contracting the virus.
Again, as I said, there is no silver bullet but we know that certain things work in keeping infection rates relatively low, preventing serious illness and death, and maintaining a reasonable level of normal life and economic activity. Vaccines are a key weapon but there are many comments coming from certain sections that vaccination is not the answer we were told it was and that people are right not to get vaccinated. However, the number of people in hospital compared to the level of infection in the community, and the number of people in ICU, unfortunately, proves that the vaccines are having a big effect. If we were in this position this time last year, we would be devastated as a country and our people would be greatly compromised by the virus. We have evidence from Israel, which had 8,000 cases a day and 500 in hospital with serious problems in August and September. The booster roll-out has reduced this to 500 cases a day and 29 in hospital, with just 75 of the positive cases among the unvaccinated.
We have been very slow to act on boosters and the Minister has to take that as a positive criticism. We do not really know why. For example, in Inchicore, the cohort in their early 70s are getting vaccinated this Saturday but it has been a couple of weeks since it was announced they were going to get vaccinated. We moved much more efficiently during the general vaccine roll-out. Among people in their 60s, I have heard of people aged 63 who got the booster but others have not. It seems very erratic. I know the over-70s are getting the booster through their GPs and those aged 60 and over are getting vaccinated in the centres. Is there a problem in that people got vaccinated through their GPs previously, but GPs are handing over the information to the HSE to get people in quickly?
I was delighted to hear the Minister say that those with underlying illnesses are being added to the cohorts. However, cystic fibrosis sufferers have not yet been vaccinated. Given they are one of the most compromised sectors, it is amazing they have not had their booster yet.
We need to make boosters part of the vaccine pass as people get them. It is common knowledge that some premises are not making vaccine passes a requirement. We know from community feedback that pubs and cafés are not asking people for their passes, which is serious. I asked the Minister a parliamentary question on this issue. I have not heard of one establishment getting closed down because it did not comply with the restrictions, whereas we know certain establishments are breaking the rules. Something is wrong somewhere from that point of view.