Vaccinations not performing as you hope to reduce the spread of Covid – CMO

Vaccinations “are not working as hoped” in reducing Covid-19 transmission, the chief medical officer said.

Dr Tony Holohan said Ireland’s high vaccination rate has prevented thousands of hospital admissions as well as hundreds of ICU hospitalizations and deaths.

However, he said vaccinations alone are not enough to stop the spread of the disease and urged the public to stick to basic measures of hand washing, mask use and isolation in case of symptoms.

He said: “Unfortunately, in crude terms, the vaccinations have probably done a little better than we could have hoped for in terms of preventing serious infections.

“They performed and maintained their performance very well in protecting people from the severe effects of the disease.

“In truth, they are probably not working as well as we could have hoped in terms of preventing transmission.

“There is an impact on transmission to and from vaccinated people, but it is not as great as we would like.

“It is possible that people who are infected and who have been vaccinated are infected and transmit that infection.”

High vaccination rate

Ireland has some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with around 93 percent of adults and 75 percent of the entire population now doubly vaccinated.

But he said this hasn’t stopped the spread of the virus from person to person “to the extent we would have liked.”

“This must therefore be taken into account in our collective behavior,” he told a National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefing Wednesday.

He said: “The suppression we are seeing (from vaccination)… unfortunately, it is not enough on its own to suppress the transmission of the virus which has as high a natural transmission capacity as Delta.

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“This is a very highly transmissible virus.”

He added: “We have prevented thousands of hospitalizations, hundreds if not more deaths and hundreds of ICU hospitalizations in this country than would have occurred in this wave, by virtue of the high levels of vaccinated people.

“What we can’t prevent through that vaccination is the wave of transmission.”

Restrictions

Dr Holohan said that no country in the world would be able to do without all the restrictions of Covid-19 through the vaccination process alone.

The CMO has not ruled out introducing further restrictions if the number of cases and hospitalization rates continue to rise.

However, he said it might be possible to “reverse” the situation if there was an improvement in adherence to basic public health measures across the population.

He cited hand washing, mask use, and symptomatic staying at home as key measures that the public should continue to adhere to.

“Small changes in cumulative behavior across the population can lead to significant changes in the transmission patterns we’re seeing,” he said.

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“A huge improvement may not be needed. But it is an improvement across the population for us to reverse the experience we are seeing right now in terms of the growth of the infection.

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“The infection is growing at a rate that worries us now. And if we do not find the means within us – in terms of behavior, in terms of the environments in which we operate to be made as safe as possible – we do not want to find ourselves in a situation in which we have to consider what further measures will be necessary ”.

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