The influenza vaccine should be offered for free to all school children to arrest the spread of the virus, the Social Democrats spokesperson on Children, Jennifer Whitmore said today.

Greystones Councillor Whitmore was commenting after the HSE today released its weekly Influenza Surveillance Report which showed a 130 per cent increase in the number of 0-14 year-olds admitted to hospital in the first week of January 2018.

Cllr Whitmore said;

“Vaccination remains the most effective means of preventing the spread of seasonal influenza viruses and the HSE should be doing everything it can to slow down the rate of infections among this age group.

“This season’s outbreak has not yet peaked, and the viruses are expected to continue circulating for the next four weeks at least, so the message needs to go out to parents of school aged children that it’s not too late to vaccinate.

“The number of children aged up to 14 admitted to hospital with influenza increased from 36 in the last week in December 2017 to 84 in the first week this month. That’s a 130 per cent increase and it is very worrying for parents because children can pick up and pass on infections rapidly among school friends, teaching staff and family members.

“I am calling on the HSE to offer the vaccine free of charge to school children to help arrest the spread of the flu virus. This move would encourage more parents to take their children to their local pharmacies or GPs to get them vaccinated.”

The HSE’s Influenza Surveillance Weekly Report is available here.

ENDS

11 January 2018