Leading charity Trócaire has said Ireland should not expand its vaccine booster programme any further until vulnerable people in the developing world are protected.
The Government yesterday approved plans to offer booster vaccines to people over the age of 80 and those over 65 in nursing homes.
The decision came after booster doses were authorised for the immunocompromised earlier this month.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said “time will tell” whether the booster programme will be rolled out to other age groups.
"Stop, pause and think"
This afternoon, Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra said there should be no further expansion until vulnerable people in the developing world are protected.
“Here in Ireland, we have been very fortunate to have a strong vaccine-rollout programme,” she said. “Unfortunately, the majority of the world hasn’t experienced this at all.”
“In Africa, only 2% of the population has been vaccinated. In some of the countries Trócaire works in, 50% of our staff have had COVID in a context where there are virtually no vaccines and no oxygen as well.
“So, there is a huge vulnerability among people in the developing world. I think it is of course reasonable for countries to want to protect their most vulnerable, but I think we need to stop, pause and think, should a booster programme be rolled out to the entire population at a time when the majority of the world has not had a single vaccine yet?
“That is a question of morality but also of reducing the spread of the virus in the future.”
She said vaccine shortage in the developing world mean health workers and the elderly and the very vulnerable have “no prospect” of getting the vaccine in the coming year.
“There is a limited supply of vaccines, it needs to be expanded and, in a context where many vulnerable people globally have not had the vaccine yet, we should be doing our utmost to support them getting access to vaccines,” she said.
She noted that, in addition to the moral question, there are practical reasons for ensuring the world is vaccinated.
“People are losing their lives in these countries but also there is a practical reality here that the longer the virus circulates across the globe, the more vulnerable we all are,” she said.
“So, vaccinating those who are most vulnerable, wherever they are, needs to be the priority.”
The World Health Organisation has called for a moratorium on boosters until the end of the year.
The organisations Special Envoy Dr David Nabarro has told Newstalk that there is “no justification” for vaccinating children while the developing world is vulnerable.
He also appealed to the Government not to roll out a booster programme until the developing world was protected.
Reporting from Stephanie Rohan