Marita Moloney
Marita Moloney

10.28 19 Nov 2020


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The Government's reluctance to introduce mass, rapid COVID-19 testing in Ireland is "disappointing", according to a leading immunologist. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said while he believes antigen testing could be a game-changer, public health officials are telling him they are not yet satisfied with the data.

Additionally, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told Newstalk Breakfast today that antigen tests are "only one part of the armoury" and that the Government was following "best medical practice and advice".

Trinity College Dublin immunologist Professor Luke O'Neill said the rapid tests have been cleared for use in America.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, he said: "The US has been approving tests to beat the band, the FDA approves tests as well, that's their other job.

"They have approved several tests and say these tests should be rolled out.

"There seems to be the hesitancy which is a bit disappointing which we would like to see ramped up.

The FDA have also approved a rapid at home COVID-19 test which Prof O'Neill says is "one to watch".

He said: "That's a very clear stamp of approval, and the FDA will have committees and real experts looking at that.

"If they give it the thumbs up in that way, that means it's very reliable.

"Wouldn't you love that test to be rolled out everywhere?

"What I'm hearing is there are ten tests which are seen to be reliable and reliable enough to be issued so we need to see them coming to Ireland.

"It's a really important one to get right.

"Especially at the airport, we see Dublin Airport is now going to have two resting booths when people come into the airport and at Christmas that becomes even more important."

It comes as Dublin Airport opens its first coronavirus testing centre today which will help passengers aiming to travel across Europe under the new ‘Traffic Light’ system for international travel.

He added that there should be "a Santa's grotto" in Dublin Airport at Christmas where you go in and have your test and wait for a result.

Reluctance to introduce rapid COVID-19 testing in Ireland 'disappointing'

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Vaccines

Meanwhile, it was revealed today that a COVID-19 vaccine appears to show a strong immune response in older adults.

Researchers at Oxford University and AstraZeneca have yet to publish the overall effectiveness of the jab from trials

However, they say people over 55 reacted better than those younger despite older people generally responding poorly to immunisations.

It follows the news that US drug company Pfizer plans to submit its COVID-19 vaccine for approval with regulators 'within days'.

It is the second vaccine which is reported to be 95% effective after US company Moderna has said its coronavirus vaccine has no significant safety concerns.

Professor O'Neill added that there is "huge variation" between the three on how they will be stored and distributed.

He said that Pfizer may change how the formulation of the vaccine as they initially reported that it would have to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

The Moderna vaccine "looks really good" as it can be stored in freezers at GP surgeries for 30 days, he added.

He said: "Interestingly, it can only be stored for 12 hours at room temperature which shows how fragile these RNA vaccines are.

"I never thought we would be discussing ultra-cold temperatures, it just shows the times we live in."

The AstraZeneca vaccine "may be even more stable at room temperature" than Moderna's, meaning there will be strong competition between the three companies in terms of storage.

Main image: Professor Luke O'Neill. Picture by: Newstalk

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