Immunologist Luke O'Neill suggests delaying vaccines for under 30s in Ireland to donate jabs to developing countries
O'Neill said the mission has to be getting the vaccine "into as many arms as possible".
Luke O'Neill, an immunologist and professor at Trinity College, has suggested the possibility of delaying vaccines to people under 30 in Ireland so that they could be made available to developing countries and countries where the need for vaccines is currently more critical.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk on Tuesday, O'Neill suggested that Ireland could delay the vaccination of low-risk groups such as those under 30 to assist the vaccine rollout programmes in countries such as India and Brazil.
In February, Ireland donated €5 million in Irish Aid funding for the global health response to Covid-19, to enable developing countries access vaccines.
Most of this funding will go to the COVAX facility, a global UN-led mechanism for pooling procurement and fair distribution of the vaccines.
O'Neill, however, has suggested that vaccines for less at-risk groups could be donated to other countries, both to help vulnerable people in those countries and to stop the potential spread of Covid-19 variants.
“We have given a billion doses out, which is a tremendous number on one level, that is either two doses or one dose, but that means nearly 90% of the world is unvaccinated,” he said.
“As we know, there were two million cases in India last week and 20,000 deaths. In Brazil, there were 400,000 cases and 17,000 deaths.
“So, clearly the mission is going to move on now to getting the vaccine from high-income countries to the developing world.”
"One suggestion that is very striking is that we shouldn't be giving the vaccine to under 30s until we've vaccinated all the vulnerable in developing countries because obviously the under 30s are at low risk, they're unlikely to get severe disease, if we done all the vulnerable people, is it justified then to start giving away vaccines?”
O’Neill said that the move would not only be important "ethically" but could prevent the spread of new variants of the virus.
“There is a move now towards giving up the surplus, which is very important because not only is it ethically sound because there are vulnerable people in these countries that need vaccinating but the second reason is to stop variants," he added.
“So, there is kind of self-interest part to this too because obviously the more widespread the vaccination in the world, the less likely it is that variants will emerge, so we are going to see this debate now more and more in the coming weeks.”
“That will be the debate, should we protect the younger people against long-Covid for example, because that is a reality, versus stopping people dying in developing countries? So, it is a tough one in many ways."
"It goes beyond Covid in many ways and again the mission has to be to get the vaccine into as many arms as possible.”
At the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee in February, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, said that the priority for vaccinations should be “health workers, older people and people with concomitant illnesses, wherever they are.”
He added that access to vaccines “should not on the basis of geographical location or nationality” and “countries with spare vaccine should be giving that spare vaccine to COVAX immediately”.