Vaccine boosters for people aged 60 and over have been approved by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

The approval was confirmed at a meeting in Government Buildings last night.

No decision has been reached yet by NIAC on a booster jab for healthcare workers.

The matter is being kept under review by the advisory committee but the Government considers it an urgent matter.

The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that he would like to see healthcare workers receiving boosters, but that we must take "expert advice of NIAC".

Micheál Martin said otherwise "overall confidence in the vaccine programme" could be injured or damaged.

Speaking during Questions on Promised Legislation, he said NIAC is keeping this issue under review.

Earlier Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the boosters for over 60s can be an mRNA vaccine regardless of the first vaccine they received.

Speaking on his way into a Cabinet meeting this morning, Minister Donnelly said there is a "very strong case to be made" for boosters for health care workers, and he is seeking further advice on that.

"The healthcare workers that I'm talking to are making the case very strongly - to protect themselves, to protect the hospitals, to protect patients.

"We've obviously been led by NIAC advice on this, the public put a lot of trust in that.

"NIAC are looking at it and I'm in close engagement with the Chief Medical Officer on that."

NIAC has been examining the issue of booster vaccinations for some time.

One of the main questions was the age group, whether it should be for those over 60 or 65 years.

The European Medicines Agency has said that booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be given at least six months after the second dose, in those aged 18 years or older.

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Recently NIAC found that the evidence did not currently support giving a booster dose to health staff. It has not changed that advice in its latest opinion but it will be kept under rolling review.

The Health Service Executive will now plan the roll-out of booster doses to those over 60, under the fresh advice from NIAC.

Meanwhile, more than 90 nursing homes, both public and private, have reported Covid outbreaks, according to Nursing Homes Ireland Chief Executive Tadhg Daly.

Mr Daly said that residents are not presenting as sick and that most of the over-65s have received their booster shots.

Nursing homes are now waiting to see when those under the age of 65 and health care staff can receive their boosters.

Call for healthcare workers to be included in booster programme

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has called on the Government to include healthcare workers in its plans for the booster vaccination programme.

INMO General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: "It is disappointing that NIAC have not advised that healthcare workers receive the vaccine at this stage in the booster vaccine campaign.

"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."

She added: "Healthcare workers are receiving vaccine boosters in Northern Ireland, England, Canada, South Africa and many parts of the USA. Why are we not following their lead? Why are we contemplating delaying protecting those on the frontline who are already working in overcrowded conditions?

"Our hospitals are not just full, they are overcrowded.

"This airborne infection poses a high risk of breakthrough infection to those already vaccinated, and the health services are obliged, in accordance with the Safety Health and Welfare protocol dealing with the biological hazard Covid-19, to provide all necessary protections, including vaccines, where they are available, to afford maximum protections available to those exposed to this hazard.

"This therefore is a legal requirement on the employer to provide boosters to frontline healthcare workers in our view."

This call was echoed by the Chairman of the GP Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation, who said he is "not happy" at the decision not include healthcare workers in the booster programme so far.

Dr Denis McCauley said he is "really very much relieved" that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee approved a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine to the 60 and above cohort.

However, the Donegal-based GP said he is "not happy that they had not made the decision in regards to healthcare workers."