Irish population should get boosters 'without moral debate from NPHET' - Kelly

There is continued speculation a booster programme, currently for the over-60s, will be expanded
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.39 8 Nov 2021

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Irish population should get bo...

Irish population should get boosters 'without moral debate from NPHET' - Kelly

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.39 8 Nov 2021

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The Labour Party leader Alan Kelly says the Government should be ready to roll-out a widespread COVID-19 booster programme in the new year.

He was speaking amid continued speculation that the current programme, for the over-60s, will be expanded.

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: "I think it will make sense to extend the booster programme to the wider population - really any adult who is more than six months after their second dose.


"But the next group that we're examining is people under-60 with a medical condition.

"And the absolute focus now is on getting it out to the people over-60 through their GPs, through the pharmacies and through the vaccine centres - and that's going really well".

While Minister Simon Harris told Newstalk he expected Ireland would see a 'much more expanded' campaign.

Mr Kelly told The Hard Shoulder the slow-pace of such decisions is a cause for concern.

"Decision-making takes so long in some cases that it is worrying for me.

"I know that the issue that really infuriated me recently was how it took so long to say that boosters are OK for healthcare workers.

"For me this was a no-brainer, it was absolutely ridiculous - I understand NIAC didn't meet for two and a half weeks to make that decision."

And he says while he has praise for NIAC and NPHET for all their work, he believes lines are being blurred.

"There is an issue here about demarcation: they're there to provide medical and scientific advice to the Government.

"So An Taoiseach or the Minister for Health - or both - go to NIAC and NPHET and say 'We believe that we should boost the whole population, let's plan for that - obviously we're waiting for the EMA in relation to kids as well - let's be prepared to do it in January'.

"It's not for NIAC or NPHET to say morally or policy-wise we should or shouldn't do it; is it safe and is it scientifically the right thing to do - that's it.

"And obviously, I would expect the answer to both of them is 'yes'.

"This idea that, in some way, there has to be a debate at NPHET and NIAC in relation to whether it's right that we should vaccinate or boost people because... they may not use all their other tools then as much - it's about protecting the people".

'19 million vaccines in the pipeline'

On the argument that boosters should not go ahead to leave vaccines for other countries, Mr Kelly suggests: "I get that, but I understand we've 19 million vaccines in the pipeline - so we can easily do both.

"I've no issue with giving away 10 million vaccines - more - but we should be able to boost all our population".

While Mr Kelly says it is 'ridiculous' it is taking so long to introduce antigen testing in schools.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said he expects to see the tests being used for close contacts in primary schools before Christmas.

But Mr Kelly says it should not be taking so long.

"I've two young kids - nearly a 10-year-old in a few days and an 11-year-old - and I know exactly what parents are going through across the country.

"I was the first person to raise antigen testing in Dáil Éireann, I don't how long ago - it's 14 or 15 months ago probably.

"And I don't know why it hasn't been used across society. We all know the limitations... but it would completely help.

"And the idea now that it's going to take seven weeks to bring it in across the country, it's ridiculous.

"It would actually save money as well, because the added cost to come from children who are going to miss school and the catch-up, and the whole range of the costs associated with childcare and everything else.

"It would actually save money, it is ridiculous".

Irish population should get boosters 'without moral debate from NPHET' - Kelly

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Main image: Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly speaking on the Dáil plinth at Leinster House in July 2021. Picture by: Leah Farrell /

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