Irish people must get used to getting infected with COVID as a boosted and largely immune population, according to Immunology Professor Liam Fanning.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the UCC professor said we can’t countenance another winter of restrictions and lockdowns in 2022.
He said the country will be largely boosted and immune by the end of next month and said it is time people got used to living with the virus.
“We have got to get used to being infected as a boosted and largely immune population,” he said. “When the boosters have done their job we’ll say – by the end of January.
“We are largely immune and we have to just get used to being infected. This booster is giving very large protection against infection and serious disease and consequences and we just have to start living with it.
“This winter, we are where we are but next winter we can’t really countenance a situation where we are locking down individual freedoms.
“To what? What are we protecting? We are protecting the hospitals and if you look at who is occupying the hospitals, one-sixth of the beds in ICU are occupied by unvaccinated individuals relative to the 6% proportion of the total population they occupy.”
Nearly 60% of the COVID patients admitted to intensive care units between June and December were unvaccinated, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
Currently just over 8% of the eligible population remains unvaccinated.
Professor Fanning also warned that the median age of the unvaccinated people ending up in ICU is 38.
“That is really young,” he said. “No 38-year-old from a viral infection, where there is a vaccine should end up in ICU.”
Asked whether Ireland should introduce mandatory vaccination to address the issue, he said: “Let’s have the discussion first and then see where we go on it.”
“If we had that extra 50 beds in ICU - or that 50% of the 106 - we wouldn’t be in a situation where we were countenancing restrictions because we would have capacity – admittedly in overworked hospital situations – but we would have capacity to manage within the public health system,” he said,
“That is not the only pressure point within the hospital system, but it is one that has actually impacted on our capacity to have a free and open society”.
He said it is also essential that we increase the number of ICU beds in the system after “two decades of underinvestment”.