Covid-19 vaccines are going to waste as people are not turning up for their booster appointments, especially young people, a Co Monaghan GP has said.
Speaking on the Brendan O'Connor programme on RTÉ Radio 1, Dr Illona Duffy, said she has seen a decrease in demand for boosters since last week and gave the example of her last vaccine clinic last week with "drop outs."
She acknowledged that the reason for this decline is twofold as some people have to wait three months until they can get their booster after being infected recently.
However Dr Duffy said many others feel they do not need to get it.
"They think, 'why bother, we don't need it to get into the pubs and restaurants?'," she said, referencing changes to Covid-19 restrictions announced on Friday.
Dr Duffy said it makes her question some aspects of the reopening, such as the removal of Digital Covid Certs for hospitality.
"So what is the incentive now to get the vaccine?," she asked.
"We are getting mixed messages here. We are getting one being told we don't need these vaccine certs anymore to get in anywhere, on the other hand 'let's keep pushing the boosters and.trying to get these vaccines into arms'."
Her comments come as the Department of Health reported 4,731 new cases of Covid-19, while 3,395 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.
There were 845 people with Covid-19 in hospitals around the country at 8am this morning, an increase of nine from the same time yesterday.
79 of these patients are receiving treatment in intensive care units - up one in the last 24 hours.
Read more: Latest Covid stories
Booster vaccines have played a huge role in keeping people safe, Dr Duffy said.
"Before Christmas we had lots of people coming forward and then it dropped to perhaps six a day," she said, "we know vaccines are going to waste".
Dr Duffy also said with the reopening of society, access to all other healthcare issues can be prioritised now and for mental health, it is important also for life to return to normal.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the reason vaccines go out of date is due to the time they have been taken out of the freezer.
Speaking on RTÉ's This Week, he said they made sure enough vaccines were available for everyone who wanted a booster and then a huge surge in Omicron happened and anyone who has been infected is unable to get the booster for several months.
He added that it is too early to say if another booster will be recommended before next winter, but he expects to get advice from NIAC on that, particularly concerning vulnerable groups.
Meanwhile the Head of the ESRI's Behavioural Research Unit has said it is great to see young people being able to return to normal socialising.
Dr Pete Lunn said all of the data shows that young adults were hit "the hardest" in terms of well-being and mental illness with the restrictions during the pandemic.