THE NATIONAL Public Health Emergency Team is to discuss mandatory vaccination against Covid-19, minutes of its meeting from 16 December have revealed.
The "discussion will be facilitated by a forthcoming paper" from the Department of Health "on the relevant ethical and legal considerations pertaining to this topic", the minutes, which were published on Friday, said.
Members at the meeting expressed concern about waning immunity and the "as yet uncertain duration of protection by booster vaccination with regard to the Omicron variant."
Concern was expressed that if emerging evidence is found to be correct, those who are most at risk may need an additional booster in a number of week's time, and it was noted that there is s risk vaccination could lead to complacent behaviour with regard to other public health measures that are in place to counteract the virus.
However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin previously said on Newstalk that he would be against mandatory vaccinations for Covid-19, saying he preferred a "voluntary approach".
"I do get the point the unvaccinated take up a disproportionate element of the health service... [but] I think we should keep going with the approach we have adopted so far," he said.
Currently, Ireland has vaccinated over 92% of people aged over 12, and 2.3 million booster doses have been administered to date.
As of 9 January, there are 1,063 people in hospital with the virus, of which 89 are in ICU.
NPHET noted at the meeting in December that "persons who are unvaccinated continue to be overrepresented in terms of requiring hospital care treatment for Covid-19 as compared with vaccinated persons."
Of the 1,272 Covid-19 cases (aged 12 and over) in November who were hospitalised and where vaccination status is known, 281 (22%) were unvaccinated and 956 (75%) were considered to be fully vaccinated.
Of the 157 cases (aged 12 and over) in November that were admitted to ICU and where vaccination status is known, 71 (45%) were unvaccinated and 79 (50%) were considered to be fully vaccinated.
Across Europe, countries are beginning to delve into the territory of mandatory vaccinations.
From 1 February, vaccination will be mandatory in Austria, the first compulsory vaccination requirement in Europe.
Greece will begin fining people over the age of 60 who do not get vaccinated €100 a month if the don't receive the jab by 15 January.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis defended the measure saying the older group represented 90% of deaths due to Covid-19.
German MPs are also expected to vote on making vaccination mandatory.
Olaf Scholz, who recently took over as chancellor from Angela Merkel, insisted Friday that his plan to introduce mandatory coronavirus vaccination was on track, despite fierce debate about the controversial move and growing resistance from his own coalition partners.
Italy also announced on 5 January that vaccines would be mandatory for those aged over 50. The measure was immediately effective and will be in place until 15 June.
Vaccines will be mandatory for health and social care workers by April 1 in England.