Call for HSE to offer free flu vaccinations to school children

Social Democrats say vaccinating children up to the age of 14 could help minimise the effects of the outbreak

Call for HSE to offer free flu vaccinations to school children

Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

There is a call this morning for the HSE to follow the lead of the UK and France in offering free flu jabs for children.

It comes as Emergency Departments continue to face overcrowding, partly because of the winter influenza outbreak.

While a peak is expected next week, the HSE says the flu surge could last several more weeks.

The Times reports that almost 19,000 people are believed to have contracted the flu last week, while around 2,000 people were hospitalised.

The flu vaccination is currently available free of charge to some at-risk adults with a medical card or GP visit card.

However, Social Democrats Councillor Jennifer Whitmore thinks it is time to offer vaccinations for kids up to the age of 14.

In the UK, the vaccination is currently free for young children, as well as older children with long-term health conditions.

The NHS is planning to 'gradually extend' the free scheme to include older children.

Councillor Whitmore argued: “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.

“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 flu outbreak is believed to be contributing to the hundreds of people who have had to wait for a bed in hospitals around the country since the New Year.