The Irish Times

Nphet told extra protection for unvaccinat­ed in hospitals not always possible

- JENNIFER BRAY Political Correspond­ent

The HSE has told the State’s public health team it has not always been possible to give extra protection to unvaccinat­ed people in hospitals because of the way they are set up.

During a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on August 25th, members discussed the “disproport­ionate impact that the current wave of cases is having on those who are unvaccinat­ed or who are experienci­ng waning immunity” and this was “noted with concern”.

Newly released minutes of the meeting show members discussed hospitalis­ations and the need to be able to triage vaccinated and unvaccinat­ed patients into “separate streams”.

The HSE confirmed during the meeting while hospitals have been told to determine the vaccinatio­n status of patients on admission and to protect those who are unvaccinat­ed where possible, “in some cases the infrastruc­ture does not allow for this”.

‘Prompt identifica­tion’

The need for “prompt identifica­tion of patients with high grade immunosupp­ression who are at high risk of breakthrou­gh infections and ICU admission” was also stressed.

Amid concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in hospitals, the health service is carrying out extensive testing of asymptomat­ic fully-vaccinated staff and patients. “When new asymptomat­ic infections of fully-vaccinated patients and staff are detected, they are managed as infectious cases.”

The Nphet members discussed a study of healthcare workers in the Netherland­s which found 68 per cent of vaccinated health care workers who suffered a breakthrou­gh infection were found to be hosting “infectious virus cultures” in comparison to 85 per cent of unvaccinat­ed healthcare workers. “These findings indicate that there is still a significan­t risk that a vaccinated person can transmit the virus,” the meeting heard.

Low mortality

Modelling projection­s were also discussed at the meeting which heard that there continues to be relatively low mortality related to Covid-19.

The modelling group shared a range of updated potential scenarios which factored in the transmissi­on of the Delta variant and the success of the vaccinatio­n programme as well as other factors.

In optimistic scenarios, case counts would peak at 2,500-3,000 cases a day in mid-September, with later peaks in healthcare demand seeing 500-700 people in hospital and 80-130 people in ICU.

Central scenarios showed the peak at between 3,000 to 5,000 cases a day, with between 750 and 1300 in hospital and 150-250 people requiring critical care.

The group was said to be conducting “additional work to update these scenarios, to further examine the possible effects of school opening, and to provide additional detail on possible scenarios beyond October 2021”. The actual coronaviru­s case numbers and hospitalis­ations have tracked well below these scenarios.

Yesterday, there were 1,154 further confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland. The latest available figures also show there are 297 patients hospitalis­ed with the virus, of which 63 are in ICU.

The meeting in late August, which was held as the Government finalised its latest roadmap towards exiting restrictio­ns, also heard that respirator­y viruses including influenza may be more impactful than usual over the coming months.

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