The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Professor Breda Smyth and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) Rachel Kenna are urging Dublin parents to consider the seasonal flu vaccine for their children as cases continue to rise.
While the number of cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is beginning to fall after reaching a record high of 734 cases in mid-November, this year’s flu season has not yet peaked.
In the week to November 27, the number of flu cases rose by 16 per cent to 223.
The highest proportion of RSV and flu cases this year have been in children under the age of 5, followed by the over-65s.
The flu vaccine is administered as a nasal spray for children aged two to 17 years and takes approximately two weeks to become fully effective. Parents are therefore now encouraged to take the “golden opportunity” to boost their children’s protection in advance of Christmas.
Less than 10 per cent of eligible children in this age bracket have received their vaccine so far this year. Flu vaccination is an important measure to help prevent illness and avoid putting additional pressure on our hospitals.
Chief Medical Officer Prof Breda Smyth said:
“I am concerned about the low levels of uptake for the flu vaccine for children. During the recent flu season in Australia, children accounted for 60 per cent of hospitalisations, and we want to avoid seeing similar figures here.
“There is a lot of intergenerational mixing at Christmas, which is of course very much welcomed, but it does give winter viruses an opportunity to spread.
“By getting your child vaccinated, you can help to protect older people and those who are vulnerable. If we all play our part, it will help to keep us safe this Christmas.
Chief Nursing Officer Rachel Kenna said:
“The flu vaccination for children is a nasal spray and can be administered quickly and easily at your GP or pharmacy (free of charge).
“I would encourage all parents to consider getting the vaccine for their children. I would also like to remind everyone that it is important to continue practising the key behaviours prevent the spread of winter viruses, such as hand cleaning, mask wearing on public transport and good respiratory etiquette.”
NB The flu vaccine is also available for free to people who are aged 65 or older, healthcare workers, pregnant, living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl, living with a health condition that puts them at higher risk of flu, or living with someone who has a health condition that puts them at higher risk of flu.
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