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HIQA has advised the national public health emergency team (NPHET) that policies for healthcare personnel who do not avail of Covid-19 vaccination should developed and enacted on the ‘intervention ladder’ principle.
This means that interventions are progressive, and, for example, could start with providing evidence-based information and subsequently, utilise one-to-one conversations, testing and/or additional PPE. Higher rungs of this policy ladder may involve redeployment to a lower risk area.
Mandatory vaccination would sit at the top of the ladder as the most intrusive step.
Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “We are encouraging all healthcare personnel to avail of Covid-19 vaccination as soon as they are eligible. The past year has been very challenging for healthcare personnel and we have advised NPHET that any policy introduced regarding Covid-19 vaccination should be built on a model of encouragement and support.”
Dr Ryan continued: “As Covid-19 vaccination programmes progress, we expect that more countries will bring out policy and guidance regarding unvaccinated healthcare personnel. At the time of our review, only the UK had published guidance on this topic and we noted only one country, Italy, had introduced a national policy of mandatory Covid-19 vaccination for all healthcare workers. It is vital that vaccine policy considers issues around data collection, legality and ethics as well as the range of mitigation strategies available to protect those availing of, and working in the health service.”
The advice is part of a number of newly published documents HIQA has submitted to NPHET to help inform Ireland’s response to Covid-19.
HIQA has also updated its advice to NPHET on the minimum age for face mask wearing. The latest advice recommends no change in the minimum age for mask use in the community setting.
This advice was based on the latest information and evidence, in particular, the recent Irish epidemiological data, which offered reassurances that the package of mitigation measures currently in place in primary schools has been effective at minimising transmission. This advice will be reviewed and updated should the evidence indicate a change in the epidemiological situation.
HIQA has also updated its evidence summary and advice on the duration of immunity (protection from reinfection) following SARS-CoV-2 infection. Six new reinfection studies were identified. HIQA has advised NPHET that no change is required to the duration of presumptive immunity following natural infection (which is currently six months post-infection). However, as the body of evidence is rapidly expanding, HIQA advises continued review of the data.