Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Swine flu jabs for healthy children end

Healthy children in Northern Ireland will not be vaccinated for swine flu after the end of March, the Department of Health has announced.

There was only one new detection of the virus last week and the number of GP consultations has fallen again.

The formal vaccination programme for those at risk will end, however health workers or those who develop an underlying illness or become pregnant can still be vaccinated.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said the pandemic was circulating much less widely in the community but warned that it still posed a risk to those it infected.

“It is particularly important to note that the programme for otherwise healthy children will not be continued beyond the end of March, on the advice of JCVI (Joint Committee on Immunisation and Vaccination),” he said.

“I would strongly urge any parent who has not yet taken up the offer of vaccine for their child to do so by March 31.”

There was a vaccine uptake rate of 86.5% for those aged under 65 in at risk groups and 74.9% for those over 65 in at risk groups, the department added.

Dr McBride said: “While swine flu is now circulating much less widely in the community, it should be remembered that the virus itself has not changed.

“This means that people are less likely to come in contact with the virus, however for those who do become infected, the virus poses just as much risk as it has done all along.”

Stormont Independent Health Coalition health committee member and GP Dr Kieran Deeny said the number of cases had dropped dramatically and made the decision to stop vaccinating children understandable.

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