The HSE’s public health medicine and flu lead, Dr Aparna Keegan has called on all parents to bring their children aged two years to 19 years to get their flu vaccine.
Children are more likely to spread the virus, she warned as they transmit for 10 days while adults transmit the virus for six days.
“It’s really important that children get the flu vaccine to protect themselves and others,” she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.
The under fives were the “real priority group” as they were at high risk of severe complications, added Dr Keegan.
The flu vaccine for children was via a nasal spray which was quick and painless to make it as easy as possible for parents. The vaccine can be administered through general practitioners or pharmacists with a list available on the HSE website, she explained.
When asked about allergies, Dr Keegan said there were very few children who could not get the vaccine, for those who could not take the nasal spray they could have an injection.
The vaccine takes two weeks to offer protection which lasts from October to April. It was “really safe” for children she said and had been available (for children) in the USA since 2003 and in the UK since 2013 and in Ireland for the past two years.
It was important that Ireland learn from the experience of other countries like Australia which had already been through its winter. The vaccination rate for children there had been only 10 per cent which had led to difficulties which meant it was very important for children in Ireland to get the flu vaccine, she said.