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Luke O'Neill: 'The idea that we can all cram into a pub together is ill-advised'

An immunologist says COVID-19 vaccines are stopping people who are infected with the Delta varian...
Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

10.18 5 Jul 2021


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Luke O'Neill: 'The idea that w...

Luke O'Neill: 'The idea that we can all cram into a pub together is ill-advised'

Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

10.18 5 Jul 2021


Share this article


An immunologist says COVID-19 vaccines are stopping people who are infected with the Delta variant from getting seriously ill.

New data from the UK shows the growth rate in Delta infections in people under 60 is falling.

It comes as almost 50% of adults are fully vaccinated here, with 343,000 doses administered last week.

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People aged 18 to 34 can also get the one-shot jab Johnson & Johnson jab in their local pharmacy from today.

Meanwhile, the hospitality sector will hold discussions with government representatives today in a bid to reopen indoor dining.

The government is examining the prospect of only allowing those who are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have a negative test to access indoor hospitality

Luke O'Neill, a Professor of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), said that coronavirus vaccines offer good protection against the disease.

However, he told The Pat Kenny Show that it is probably the wrong time for vaccinated people to gather together in an indoor hospitality setting given the threat posed by the virus.

Delta Professor Luke O’Neill in the Newstalk studio Professor Luke O’Neill in the Newstalk studio. Image: Luke O’Neill

"Vaccines are great but they're not 100% foolproof, there's still a risk of getting infected if you're vaccinated and that's the way with every vaccine," he explained.

"The reason is after you're vaccinated, your immune system might not be as strong of if you pick up a huge dose of the virus, that can break through.

"Small numbers break though, the vast majority are protected, as many as 90%, but they're still might be a one in ten chance of getting infected post-vaccination.

"In terms of transmission, we probably think there's a 50 to 60% decrease in the chance of transmission from someone who is vaccinated."

Prof O'Neill added the more transmissible Delta variant is in the community so "a little bit of caution" is still needed.

"These are low risks, but they're still a reality, so the notion that if we're all vaccinated we can all go into a pub and cram in there together, at this stage of the pandemic, that's probably ill-advised," he said.

"It's still OK to go indoors where there's good ventilation and good spacing so I imagine what might happen next in this journey that we're all on is they will allow people back into indoor settings.

"It might involve people being vaccinated or having an antigen test, as well as a little bit of control on the numbers and a little bit of control on gaps between us and ventilation in this next phase of it I think is going to be the situation.

"The personal responsibility bit is if you are slightly anxious, maybe you aren't fully vaccinated, maybe think twice about going into an indoor setting, just for this next period."

Booster shots

Booster shots of the vaccines will likely be necessary in time, particularly for vulnerable people and in light of new variants of the virus emerging.

"The booster really kicks off the immune system in time, that probably will be able to fight every variant," Prof O'Neill said.

"There will be new variants, the question is how will we respond to those variants?

"Imagine if what happened last week keeps happening, in other words, all these risks and worries and concerns every time a new variant comes around, we'll never get out of it.

"So the way to handle new variants is to keep the booster shots to protect people."

Main image: Composite photo showing Professor Luke O'Neill and people enjoying outdoor dining. Credit: Newstalk/SOPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

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