Calls to revisit Covid vaccine boosters with 1,800 health staff out of work
Following confirmation from the HSE over the weekend that over 1,800 healthcare workers are currently out of work, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has written to the Chief Medical Officer and the Chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee calling for COVID-19 vaccine boosters to be provided to frontline healthcare workers.
INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “From the HPSC figures published last Friday in the last month the number of COVID infections has increased amongst healthcare workers, with nurses and midwives representing the highest cohort of those infected. In the last month, over 371 nurses and midwives were infected. This accounts for over 26.2% of all healthcare workers infected in the last month.
“The level of infection rate of healthcare workers is going in the wrong direction, and it is especially concerning given the time of year. The reported workplace outbreaks are highest in workplaces that are described as health care settings including acute hospitals, clearly this increases the risks for those working in these environments.
"Many in the over-60 cohort that have been recommended to receive a booster in the coming weeks would have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Many healthcare workers received this vaccine in late 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.
“As supply is not an issue, thankfully, and the HSE advise that vaccinators are available to administer, we must insist that frontline HCWs are prioritised for an mRNA vaccine booster now.
“The INMO has also requested the Health and Safety Authority to reinforce the risk mitigation requirements of the Biological Hazards Directive which is now transposed into Irish law. This Directive directs employers to ensure that all necessary protections, including vaccines, where they are available, to afford maximum protections available to those exposed to COVID-19.
“The State must ensure that frontline healthcare workers are extended every possible protection at this very worrying time where our members are working in precarious circumstances, and in addition are dealing with, and preparing to escalate their efforts to manage, the worrying trend that the disease is following in our healthcare settings.
“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-19 and out of the workplace when hospitals are overcrowded and waiting lists continuing to grow.”
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