Call for preparations for next winter’s flu season to begin immediately

Former IMO president says measures should include the provision of flu vaccine to children

Preparations for next winter's flu season need to begin immediately, and should include the provision of that vaccine to children, according to a former president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IM0).

The health service is facing a possible "double whammy" from Covid-19 and flu next winter, and needs to minimise this by ensuring the widest possible uptake of the flu vaccine, according to Dublin GP Ray Walley.

“We need to start planning for next winter now. It’s going to be bad enough dealing with Covid-19, but you might also have a bad flu season. Whatever happens things are going to be more complicated, and we have to do all we can to protect people.”

Dr Walley, who is vice-president of the standing committee of European Doctors (CPME), said the HSE should consider extending the availability of flu vaccine to children, as happens in the UK.


“We have to be aware that some children can act as super-spreaders, but vaccination for the flu, whether by droplet or injection, would help.”

Meanwhile, the HSE’s National Immunisation Office (NIO) has advised parents of new babies to get them vaccinated on time during the coronavirus epidemic as vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, polio and whooping cough continue to be reported.

"We know people are worried about Covid-19, but other infectious diseases are also a threat. And so vaccines for babies, pregnant women and people in at risk groups should continue at this time through GP practices," said NIO director Dr Lucy Jessop.


The Covid-19 outbreak has had the upside of helping curtail a year-long mumps outbreak across the Republic thanks to the social distancing measures imposed, but the HSE’s health protection surveillance centre continues to record cases.

"World Health Organisation and HSE advice has not changed, vaccines must be given at their recommended time to provide maximum protection from vaccine-preventable diseases. Delaying vaccines is putting you and your children at unnecessary risk of vaccine-preventable diseases at the time they are most vulnerable to the diseases," Dr Jessop said in a statement released to mark World Immunisation Week.

The school immunisation programmes are currently on hold due to the closure of schools, but the HSE says it hopes to reinstate it when they reopen.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times