Monday, October 26, 2009

After swine flu deaths, staff at special needs schools in Northern Ireland to get vaccine

From Ireland On-Line:

Some staff in special schools for Northern Ireland pupils with severe learning difficulties will be vaccinated for swine flu, the North's Health Minister announced Oct. 26.

Michael McGimpsey stepped in after two children at Foyleview Special School in Derry died from the virus.

Ashleigh Lynch died on Wednesday, while her classmate Orla O’Kane, passed away the previous week after contracting swine flu.

From this week, arrangements have also been made for other children with special needs and underlying physical health conditions who are not in special schools to be offered the vaccine.

Mr McGimpsey said: “The staff who provide personal care to the vulnerable children within special schools for severe learning disability are doing similar work as frontline health and social care workers.

“Therefore I believe that this move will further protect this vulnerable group of children and young people.

“I have asked the Public Health Agency to make arrangements to offer vaccine to this group of staff as quickly as possible.”

The Minister said at present there is a limited supply of vaccines and the first priority must be to protect those most at risk from the complications of swine flu.

“This is why 2,500 children in over 20 special schools for severe learning disability across Northern Ireland were offered the vaccine as a matter of urgency last week. This is now largely completed,” he added.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride last week warned young people were particularly vulnerable to the pandemic but said the projected implications had been revised downwards.