The rate of swine flu among children is still “extremely high” the HSE West said this week as it prepares to offer the vaccine to this group over the coming weeks and months.
A spokesperson said children remain at higher risk of hospitalisation and complications from the virus.
“Getting the vaccine protects a child from swine flu and it also protects the people around them. Information packs are being distributed to schools including consent forms for parents/guardians. We are in the process of vaccinating schoolchildren in schools and would encourage people to demonstrate patience and wait for school vaccination rather than coming to the vaccination clinics.
“Children under six months of age cannot be given the vaccine but their household family members (ie, other children, parents, grandparents, au pairs, etc, ) should get it at the local clinics which will help protect these children.”
The vaccination clinics at Merlin Park Hospital and St Brigid’s Hospital, Ballinasloe will be closed over Christmas and will re-open at 10am on Monday January 4.
Meanwhile the HSE is urging people in at risk groups as well as those over 65 years to avail of the swine flu vaccine.
“Initially, when vaccinating the first at-risk group it was possible to accommodate walk-in visits to our clinics. Now that we have moved on to the next groups, and clinics become busier overall we are moving to an appointment only system. When people get their invitation letter appointments may be made on line at www.swineflu.ie or by phoning the booking line numbers that are provided in the letters. If people book online we will ask them to bring their invitation letters to the clinic when they come for their vaccine.
“We would ask parents and older people to be patient and wait until they receive their letter before proceeding to make a booking. This is to help ensure that the clinics are not oversubscribed and to provide a comfortable environment for all clients and staff. It also helps to ensure that those in the first at-risk group, who are still being vaccinated, do not miss their chance to be protected.”
The health authority says it is important that everyone remembers the simple ways to avoid spreading flu around.
“This is important now more than ever as the level of flu is now much higher than our usual seasonal flu levels for wintertime.”
The spokesperson says people can stay healthy and stop the spread of infection by avoiding close contact with people who appear unwell and have fever and cough, covering your nose and mouth with clean tissues when coughing or sneezing, and washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol based hand cleaners regularly and leaning surfaces regularly to get rid of germs.