Covid-19 vaccine booster shots should be provided to frontline healthcare workers, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has insisted.
It has written to the chief medical officer (CMO) and the chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) calling for booster shots to be provided, after figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) showed that Covid infections have increased among healthcare workers in recent weeks.
“Nurses and midwives represent the highest cohort of those infected. In the last month, over 371 nurses and midwives were infected. This accounts for over 26% of all healthcare workers infected in the last month,” commented INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha.
She said that infection rates among healthcare workers are “going in the wrong direction and this is especially concerning given the time of year”.
“The reported workplace outbreaks are highest in workplaces that are described as healthcare settings, including acute hospitals. Clearly this increases the risks for those working in these environments,” she noted.
Ms Ní Sheaghdha pointed out that many of those in the over-60 cohort that have been recommended to receive a booster shot in the coming weeks would have received the AstraZeneca vaccine – the same vaccine that was provided to many healthcare workers back in January and February.
“Nurses and midwives are now exhausted from working since February 2020 in this pressurised environment, wearing PPE and in many instances, unable to avail of annual leave due to high absence levels. We know exhaustion adds to their vulnerability and coupled with exposure to very high levels of this virus in their workplace, it is now imperative that they are afforded the maximum protections available, including booster vaccines,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha insisted.
She noted that vaccine supply is not an issue and the HSE has advised that vaccinators are available.
“On behalf of our members, the people who are at most risk of contracting Covid-19 in their workplace, we are now requesting an immediate decision to include frontline healthcare workers in the vaccine booster programme. We cannot afford to have huge swathes of nurses and midwives infected with Covid and out of the workplace when hospitals are overcrowded and waiting lists continuing to grow,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha added.