The annual flu vaccination programme should be extended to allow free vaccinations for childcare professionals, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Mary Seery Kearney said that due to the nature of their role, childcare professionals may be more at risk of getting the illness and should be considered a priority.
“Fine Gael is committed to providing the best start for every child and a key means of doing this is by protecting childcare workers.
“Anyone can get themselves vaccinated for the flu virus and stave away this awful illness, and currently there are excellent arrangements for some of those most in need of flu vaccinations to get them free of charge.
“This list includes: Children aged from 2 to 12; people aged 65 and over; pregnant women; those living in a nursing home or other long-term care facility; anyone in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl; anyone aged over 6 months and with specific medical conditions; and anyone in a household or who is a carer for somebody with one specific medical condition.
“Healthcare workers are particularly noted as a group in our society who are vital for ongoing care of the sick and vulnerable, and who due to the nature of their work are at risk from illness so can avail of vaccination free of charge.
“Childcare professionals also work in very close contact with children, diligently caring for them in the course of their work, and particularly if the child becomes ill during their time in the childcare facility. Yet they are excluded from the free vaccination programme.
“Currently childcare professionals can take part in a flu vaccine refund scheme whereby they pay for the jab initially and it can then be refunded by Tusla, but this still requires these workers to pay out of their own pockets initially and wait for the money to be returned.
“This is inexplicable as it is well documented that as a result of their work, they can be more susceptible to illness.
“We have all seen first-hand the importance of vaccines and how they prevent serious illness and ultimately save lives. It is essential that childcare professionals are prioritised in this regard.
“Today I have written to the Minister for Health and the Minister for Children asking that vaccinations are made freely available for everyone working in the childcare sector immediately, to recognise how essential they are and how much we want to keep them safe”, concluded Senator Seery Kearney.