As winter approaches and the prevalence of respiratory viruses is anticipated to rise, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has issued a warning about the concerning uptake rates of vaccines that protect against these viruses. Failure to address this issue promptly could have severe consequences for public health in the coming weeks, according to the HSE.
New figures reveal that only 11.5% of HSE staff have received a Covid-19 booster, and just 24.3% have taken the flu vaccine. Similar trends are evident among other eligible groups. For example, only 18% of individuals aged 50-69 who qualify for a free Covid-19 booster have received it, while the uptake among those aged 70 and over stands at 49%. Shockingly, only 10% of immunocompromised patients have received the Covid-19 vaccine this winter, despite their vulnerability to serious illness.
The situation regarding the flu vaccine is equally worrying. Uptake rates among eligible individuals aged 70 and over are at 59%, with 18% among those aged 50-69 and a mere 9.5% among children aged two to 12.
Dr. Éamonn O’Moore, the HSE’s director of national health protection, expressed deep concern over the low vaccine uptake figures and emphasized the urgency for action. Although flu rates are currently low and Covid-19 cases stable, hospitals are already experiencing pressure due to a surge in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre revealed that there were 454 notified RSV cases in the week leading up to November 12th, indicating an increase from the previous week.
It is crucial to address the low vaccine uptake rates promptly to protect vulnerable individuals, such as immunocompromised patients, from serious illness. Echoing this sentiment, Dr. Lucy Jessop, HSE national immunisation lead, expressed concern about the lower-than-expected vaccine uptake among healthcare workers who play a pivotal role in caring for patients with these viruses.
The HSE highlights that the flu vaccine is available for free to individuals aged 65 and over, specific vulnerable groups, and children aged two to 12. The Covid-19 vaccine is recommended for those aged 50 and over, healthcare workers, and specific vulnerable populations. Additionally, a pneumococcal vaccine is available for individuals aged 65 and over and at-risk groups.
Q: Why is the low uptake of vaccines a cause for concern?
A: The low uptake of vaccines could have a serious impact on public health as the prevalence of respiratory viruses is expected to rise in the coming weeks. Failure to address this issue promptly may result in increased illness and strain on healthcare resources.
Q: Who is particularly vulnerable to respiratory viruses?
A: Vulnerable individuals, such as those who are immunocompromised, are at a higher risk of serious illness from respiratory viruses like flu and Covid-19.
Q: Which groups have lower vaccine uptake rates according to the HSE?
A: The HSE has reported low vaccine uptake rates among healthcare workers and eligible age groups, including individuals aged 50-69 and those aged 70 and over.
Q: What vaccines are available to protect against respiratory viruses?
A: The flu vaccine is available for free to individuals aged 65 and over, specific vulnerable groups, and children aged two to 12. The Covid-19 vaccine is recommended for those aged 50 and over, healthcare workers, and specific vulnerable populations. Additionally, a pneumococcal vaccine is available for individuals aged 65 and over and at-risk groups.
(Source: [Health Service Executive](https://www.hse.ie/eng/))