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Cabinet considers infant respiratory syncytial virus vaccine program

Cabinet considers infant respiratory syncytial virus vaccine program
Cabinet considers infant respiratory syncytial virus vaccine program

 


Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will seek cabinet approval for an RSV vaccination programme for infants this autumn and winter.

The plan would see up to 28,000 babies born between September 2024 and February 2025 offered the vaccine.

Parents are encouraged to vaccinate their newborns before they are discharged from hospital, and the vaccine is effective for up to five months, the average length of an RSV epidemic.

The protective effect of the vaccine appears soon after administration.

Last year, there were 1,397 RSV hospitalizations in infants under one year of age, the majority of which (1,017) were in infants under six months of age.

In the winter of 2023/2024, there were 118 admissions to pediatric intensive care units in infants under 1 year of age due to RSV infection.

Due to the high number of patients admitted to hospitals and ICUs, adult ICU beds had to be made available for pediatric patients.

Minister Donnelly has drawn up plans to begin the newborn vaccination programme in September, following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) that the vaccine is safe and effective.

NIAC noted that preliminary data from a clinical trial of more than 8,000 infants conducted in Europe in winter 2022/23 reported an 83% reduction in RSV-related hospitalizations in infants.

Donnelly was informed that when this evidence is applied to the Irish infant population, up to 453 hospital admissions and up to 48 ICU admissions could be averted if 50% of newborns were vaccinated this autumn and winter.

education

Education Minister Norma Foley and Special Education Minister Hildegard Norton will table a memorandum of understanding to Cabinet to hire 44 therapists to support teachers and children with special educational needs.

To date, 39 speech language pathologists (SLTs) and occupational therapists and five behavioural therapists have been employed on a temporary basis, making it extremely difficult to fill these roles.

However, approval has now been given by the Ministry of Public Expenditure to recruit for these posts on a permanent basis.

Therapists work with teachers in the classroom to improve students' learning outcomes. This has been piloted in schools and is known as the school inclusion model.

This complements the one-to-one work that SLTs, occupational therapists and behavioural therapists in the HSE’s primary care and disability teams provide to children and young people.

The therapists will be employed by the National Council on Special Education.

housing

Meanwhile, Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien will tell Cabinet that government measures have prevented the outright purchase of around 50,000 homes across the country over the past three years.

Planning guidelines were introduced in May 2021 requiring local authorities and An Bord Pleanála to prohibit the sale or purchase of large quantities of houses and duplexes in future planning applications.

Other measures taken at the same time included the creation of homeowner guarantee legislation, which would allow local governments to designate a certain number of homes and duplexes for homeowners.

Stamp duty has also been increased to 10% to discourage mass house purchases.

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