Thursday 23 May 2019

Harris refuses to rule out introducing mandatory vaccines for health staff

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Stock picture

Niall O'Connor

Health Minister Simon Harris has refused to rule out introducing a system of compulsory vaccines for health workers.

Speaking at the launch of the Government’s ‘Winter Ready’ campaign, Mr Harris said the take-up of such vaccines among nurses is particularly low.

The Wicklow TD said this is in stark contrasts to doctors, who receive the vaccine in high numbers.

Mr Harris told reporters that he is optimistic that there will be uptake in the vaccine among healthcare workers.

But he refused to rule out making it mandatory.

“I’d rather not have to, quite frankly. But I do have an open mind in relation to that,” Mr Harris said.

“The uptake varies across healthcare professionals. Doctors have quite a high uptake traditionally. Nurses have had a very low uptake. So there’s urgency in the message that our nurses have to get vaccinated this year,” he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Harris said there is no evidence of the so-called ‘aussie flu’ reaching Ireland, despite media reports. The flu has had a particularly serious impact in Australia.

“In relation to the aussie flu, there’s no evidence so far that that strain of flu is in Ireland,” Mr Harris said.

“In fact, there’s some evidence that that strain of flu is very similar to the strain of flu we had last winter. We actually had a very bad winter, it wasn’t very remarked upon much, but we had a flu that particularly impacted upon elderly people.

The minister said he has initiated a bed capacity review in line of best international practice, adding that 57,000 more people visited the country’s emergency departments last year compared to 2015.

“That’s roughly the size of county Carlow,” he added.

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