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26th Jun 2024

Improvements must be made to proposed RSV rollout for infants, expert says

Niamh Ryan

The Department of Health is rolling out an RSV vaccination programme for infants this autumn

Under the new programme, up to 28,000 newborns will be eligible for the vaccine between September 2024 and February 2025.

However, Pharmacist Sheena Mitchell has said that the current plan in place goes against expert advice.

According to Mitchell, all babies under six months should be given the vaccine at the start of RSV season.

“It is now six months’ worth of babies in Ireland who have been excluded and left out,” she said on The Pat Kenny Show.

The new programme will leave some babies at risk if they are born before September.

“If you were born in the middle of August, you are in the highest risk category to end up in hospital or ICU from RSV – and you are not entitled to immunisation,” Mitchell said.

2023 saw 1,397 infants hospitalised with RSV, with 1,017 being under six months old.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said the new programme will prevent ‘hundreds’ of hospitalisations.

However, Mitchell argued that the proposed rollout isn’t enough.

Instead, she has suggested that babies born between July and August receive the vaccine in September at their two-month visit.

Babies born earlier in the year could also receive it in September at the four-month visit, and so on.

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common virus that can cause pneumonia in young children.

According to the HSE: “almost all children get RSV by the time they are two years old.”

Symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, including a runny nose, coughing, and sneezing.

Bronchitis may develop in infants after 4-5 days, when they may develop a wheeze and a decreased appetite.

The virus usually takes up 10-14 days to leave the system.

The HSE recommends seeing your GP if symptoms worsen.