Flu vaccine: CMO urges parents to get children vaccinated

Prof Breda Smyth also calls for those eligible to get a Covid booster

Chief Medical Officer Prof Breda Smyth has called on parents to get the flu nasal vaccine for their children and for anyone eligible for a Covid booster to get it.

Prof Smyth told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that uptake on the nasal vaccine for flu for children has been less than 10 per cent. The target of 75 per cent for people aged over 65 has also not been reached for the flu vaccine.

In the past week there has been an increase in hospitalised cases of flu and increased positivity of Covid, putting pressure on the health system, she added.

The experience in the southern hemisphere where winter has already passed was that up to 60 per cent of hospital cases were children, she said. “I would urge people to get their booster.”

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Prof Smyth also said investigations were ongoing into the possibility that Strep A was a contributory factor in the death of a child.

A five-year-old girl died of a severe form of the illness in Northern Ireland, and a possible Strep A link to the death of another child in the State is under investigation

So far this year there had been 55 cases of invasive Strep A – lower than previous years pre pandemic. In 2018 the number of cases was 136, and in 2019 it was 108.

However, Prof Smyth warned there were a lot of respiratory illnesses at present including flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

When a case of invasive Strep A was diagnosed in a school or creche, the public health-risk assessment team would be sent in to determine what action was necessary and if preventative antibiotics were needed, Prof Smyth said.

If parents were concerned about their child, they should act quickly and seek medical attention, she added.

Dr Scott Walkin, the Irish College of General Practitioners’ lead on infection control, told Newstalk Breakfast that although Strep A was a common bug it was quite rare for it to become more serious.

When asked about fears in the UK about a possible shortage of antibiotics, Dr Walkin said that was not a concern in Ireland.

Although some antibiotics were in short supply, there were alternatives available, he said, adding: “There’s no crisis because we have access to other antibiotics that are effective.”

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a media monitor and reporter