Booster doses for under-40s not expected until after Christmas

Next phase of vaccination programme in January complicated by multiple rollouts

Covid-19 booster vaccines will not be given to the under-40s until after Christmas as the extended programme is facing complications due to multiple rollouts to three groups.

Boosters for people in their 30s are due to be administered next month at the same time that non-priority children aged between five and 11 are vaccinated with first doses and those aged between 16 and 29, who received the single-dose Janssen vaccine, get their booster jabs.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended that non-priority children should receive first doses with the same priority as boosters for those under 40.

Hospital Report

This will put the vaccination programme under pressure in January managing the mass rollout of first-dose vaccines to children alongside the mass rollout of boosters for two large groups, people aged 30 and over, and younger people who received the Janssen vaccine.


“It complicates things a little,” said a well-placed source familiar with the vaccination programme. “They will all come together because Niac has said they all have equal priority.”

The HSE’s head of the vaccination programme Damien McCallion said that the plans for administering booster doses to people in their 20s and 30s would be finalised this week.

The first vaccine doses for children aged five to 11 will start this week with high-risk children being vaccinated in paediatric hospitals and wards before online registration opens up on December 27th for other high-risk children who will be vaccinated from January 3rd.

Non-priority children will start to receive their first doses from January 10th.

Accelerated programme

The booster programme has been accelerated as the HSE pushes to get more people vaccinated with third doses to protect them against the now-dominant Omicron variant.

The booster campaign for people aged between 40 and 49 was brought forward from mid-January to last weekend, with vaccination centres, GPs and pharmacies providing booster doses to this age group since the rollout began on Sunday.

Mr McCallion said the programme was working through ages as quickly as possible and that he hoped that everyone who wanted a booster could have one by the end of January or early February, with age groups being brought forward if possible.

“As the numbers come through, if we see an opportunity, we will amend the plan,” he said.

The HSE has been using stocks of the Moderna vaccine for booster doses and has begun distributing doses of that vaccine to pharmacies for their boosters this week. Moderna doses accounted for 38.7 per cent of the boosters given last week.

New research published by the US manufacturer of the vaccine shows that the Moderna vaccine booster triggers a strong antibody response against the Omicron variant, appearing to exceed the protection offered by a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Moderna said that its booster increases antibody level by a factor of 37, compared with people who received just two doses. Pfizer and BioNTech have said that their booster lifts antibody levels by a factor of 25, though the studies may not be directly comparable.

Pfizer and BioNTech are working on a dose directly targeted at Omicron, which they said will be available by March.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times