The HSE is “very concerned” about a lower than hoped for uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, the organisation’s Chief Operations Officer has said.
Ahead of the winter, officials were briefed that the health service faced a so-called ‘twindemic’ in which flu and COVID cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
In addition, many people delayed accessing treatment during the pandemic, meaning there is a backlog of individuals with very serious illnesses.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, Damien McCallion said the health service is “certainly under strain” and said staff are doing their best.
“We’re seeing an increase in flu; it’s a little bit earlier this year,” he said.
“We have the other concern this year, in terms of COVID as well; both in terms of vulnerable people but also in terms of critical in terms of keeping the system going.
“That curb is starting to go up and our health protection surveillance centre track that on a regular basis.”
The best way to avoid illness is through vaccination but Mr McCallion said there was a much lower sense of urgency than during the acute phase of the pandemic.
“We’ve a good uptake in terms of flu but we’re looking to encourage those people over 65,” he continued.
“[There’s] a much lower uptake on COVID and we’re really pushing hard for those people who are vulnerable and for healthcare workers - [it’s] really important in both the public and private sector that people get vaccinated.
“Our research isn’t suggesting a fundamental to that - it’s simply a timing issue.”
Currently, the HSE is offering a third booster to individuals over the age of 65 or those over 12 who have a weak immune system.
A flu vaccine can be booked at a GP surgery or pharmacy.
Main image: A man receiving his vaccine. Picture by: Mark Hertzberg/ZUMA Press Wire.