PRESSURE will increase on already stretched GP-services as a flu vaccination scheme is extended from the middle of next month.
While the move to offer free vaccination to children aged between two and 12 has been welcomed in a bid to avoid a second wave of Covid-19 coinciding with an upsurge in flu, concerns have been voiced about the knock-on impact on other services.
“If, as we expect, over half a million children are to get flu vaccinations from mid-October, that will mean that hundreds of thousands of appointments will be taken up,” she noted. “Children will have to be Covid-screened before vaccination and monitored afterwards. There is no way that this won’t have a knock-on effect. People will have to wait long for other services and we’d ask them to remember that this for the common good. Children rarely get very sick with flu and this measure is part of a plan to protect older and more vulnerable people in the community.”
Dr Williams noted that deliveries of the vaccine for adults are expected this week, with clinics starting as soon as possible.
The Department of Health’s target uptake rate for the childrens’ vaccine, which is given as a nasal spray, is 60%. “It’s a no-brainer really in terms of keeping people well,” said Dr Billy O’Connell from Miltown. Extra demand for flu vaccination from the general population is also anticipated and Dr O’Connell said it was important that the government made it clear that at-risk groups would be the priority. “I hope that the public will let the at-risk groups get vaccinated first,” he said. “Everyone will want to get vaccinated this year and the concern would be that world-wide demand would put pressure on stocks.”
Dr O’Connell also welcomed the provisions of the HSE Winter Plan which is set to outline a blueprint to protect services up to March.
“We have been promised better access to diagnostic services, in order to keep as many people as possible out of hospital,” he said. “We should have had these years ago and it would be very important now that we are in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, that services like MRI, X-Rays and CT scanning, would be available for longer hours, because we as GP s are already working longer in response to the situation.”