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“Healthy young people” should not be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during a spell of shortage in supply, a Clare TD has told the Taoiseach.

At Leader’s Questions on Wednesday in Dáil Éireann, Michael McNamara TD (IND) alluded to the shortage of the COVID-19 vaccine and expressed his confidence that the Irish Government would be making a better attempt of the roll-out if more supply was available.

Deputy McNamara referenced Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organisation speaking about the “ethical dilemma” of giving vaccines to healthy young people when healthcare workers and the elderly have yet to be administered the jab.

“Why are we administering vaccines to healthy young people,” the Scariff native questioned. He added that HIQA “can’t say with certainty” there is immunity for six months after receiving both doses of the vaccine. He believed young people should not be prioritised when the vaccine is currently “such a scarce resource”.

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An Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) outlined that the Government takes its advice on the vaccine from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

He felt the evidence was not strong enough to back Deputy McNamara’s assertions. “The advice is to vaccinate,” the Taoiseach stated. The current focus remains on vaccinating over seventies, he said with the HSE working through persons in the fourth cohort which was proving “challenging”.

Reports of “massive reinfection” in Brazil were cited by the Taoiseach as an example of persons who felt they were protected from antibodies becoming at risk again. “We can’t ignore that. I prefer the cautious approach”.

Criticism of student nurses being told they must receive a vaccine in order to finish their placement and obtain a degree was also criticised by the Clare TD. He said this was not an appropriate way to deal with frontline workers. McNamara also called on the Minster for Health Stephen Donnelly (FF) to change the record of the Dáil after a priest in Cavan was fined despite Minister Donnelly previously saying that mass going would not be a penal provision.

There is no “mandatory compulsion on people to vaccinate” in the Republic of Ireland, the Taoiseach replied. “Within the health service I would argue there are certain obligations”. The Cork native said the last wave was “very challenging” with the amount of healthcare workers who tested positive for the virus. He said the vaccine led to a “dramatic” reduction in cases associated with hospital settings. “I do think we have to for the overall good do everything we can to protect the hospital setting”. An “overwhelming” relief had been expressed from front-line workers who received the vaccine, he added.

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