Limerick health officials want children to get flu vaccine before January 23 expiration date

Public Health Specialist Dr Marie Casey.

WITH the current supply of the children’s nasal-spray flu vaccines due to expire on January 23, Limerick public health officials are urging parents and guardians to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

Less than 13 per cent of the 2 to 17 year olds who are eligible for the free nasal-spray vaccine have taken it up, according to HSE figures published last week.

Nearly 700 children under the age of 14 have already been hospitalised with flu this winter.

The HSE said that 41 children have died in Ireland due to flu between 2009 and 2019.

It advised that children receive the flu vaccine, which is free of charge and administered in the form of a nasal spray to those aged between  2 and 17 years.

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After January 23, only children with medical conditions which put them at risk of serious illness from flu will be able to get a flu vaccine given as an injection through participating GP practices and pharmacies.

Additional walk-in flu vaccination clinics for children in the 2 to17 year age group are being organised to give parents an additional opportunity to get their children vaccinated”.

The Department of Public Health Mid-West warned Tuesday of a perfect storm of flu, Covid-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) circulating across Limerick, Clare and north Tipperary.

This combination of respiratory illnesses was putting even more pressure on the persistently overcrowded emergency department at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), warned Public Health specialist Dr Marie Casey.

“More people are attending GPs and the emergency department, people are infected with a number of viruses, not only having one, but maybe two or even three,” said Dr Casey.

“Thousands of doses of the current batch of children’s nasal flu vaccine are available before they expire on January 23. It’s really easy to get, just inhale it up the nostrils.

Dr Casey also warned of an increase in bacterial infections making the public very unwell on the back of the surge in viral infections.

“It is important to realise that getting a flu infection increases the risk of getting a bacterial infection, and we have seen increased circulation of bacterial like Streptococcus.

“There is no vaccine for the invasive Group A Streptococcus which has killed four children in Ireland since October, but we do have a vaccine for flu and that could help protect our children”.

Dr Casey said an unprecedented surge in respiratory illness was also putting an increased burden on nursing homes.

“We have a number of residential care facilities in the region are closed to admissions because of outbreaks of different respiratory viruses,” she told RTE’s Morning Ireland.

She also called on people to take booster vaccines to protect against Covid-19.