As winter settles in, health experts are sounding the alarm about the potential increase in winter viruses due to low vaccine uptake. The levels of flu are already on the rise, and it is expected that the peak will occur from mid-December until January. The Health Service Executive (HSE) is urgently urging the public to avail themselves of vaccines for both flu and COVID-19.
The HSE emphasizes the importance of vaccination, particularly for individuals with long-term health conditions and healthcare workers. Dr. Éamonn O’Moore, Director of National Health Protection at the HSE, expressed concern about the low uptake of vaccines and its potential impact on public health. He warns against complacency and highlights the strain already being experienced by hospitals, especially in pediatric services, due to a significant level of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases.
While COVID-19 levels are currently stable, there are instances of severe illness among those who have not received booster shots in the last six months. Dr. O’Moore stressed the importance of taking action now, as vaccines take around two weeks to take effect. He anticipates busier hospitals and increased pressure on healthcare services and staff.
Dr. Lucy Jessop, HSE National Immunisation Lead and Consultant in Public Health Medicine, expressed growing concern about the disappointingly low vaccine uptake figures. Only 11.5 percent of HSE employed healthcare workers have received the COVID-19 autumn booster vaccine, and just under a quarter have received the flu vaccine. Dr. Jessop finds this low uptake alarming and urges everyone eligible, including older people, carers, and vulnerable groups, to book their appointments for both flu and COVID-19 vaccines.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Why is vaccine uptake important in preventing winter viruses?
A: Vaccines provide protection against viruses such as flu and COVID-19, reducing the likelihood of severe illness and hospitalization. Higher vaccine uptake helps to limit the spread of these viruses in the community.
Q: Who should get vaccinated?
A: It is particularly important for people with long-term health conditions and healthcare workers to get vaccinated. However, vaccination is recommended for everyone eligible, including older people, carers, and vulnerable groups.
Q: How long does it take for vaccines to take effect?
A: Vaccines typically take around two weeks to provide full protection. It is important to get vaccinated in advance to ensure the best protection during the peak of winter virus activity.
Q: Why are healthcare workers specifically urged to get vaccinated?
A: Healthcare workers play a crucial role in providing care for patients. By getting vaccinated, they not only protect themselves but also help prevent the spread of viruses to vulnerable individuals.
Q: Are there any concerns about the strain on hospitals and healthcare services?
A: Yes, hospitals are already experiencing pressure, particularly in pediatric services, due to a significant level of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. Low vaccine uptake increases the burden on healthcare services and staff.