FOLLOWING the deaths of two children with swine flu this past weekend, Jim Wells MLA, Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, said, “These tragic deaths have renewed calls for the vaccination of all under five’s against swine flu.
“The Health Committee questioned the Public Health Agency about this very important issue on Thursday and I spoke to the Chief Medical Officer yesterday to get an update on the current situation.
“The sudden death of two young children has caused a great deal of concern amongst parents, but it is vital that any decision on vaccination is based on the latest scientific information.
“It is known that one of the children who died had an underlying health problem but the parent’s of the second child have asked that all medical information about him be kept confidential. I have asked Dr Michael McBride to contact the health authorities in the Irish Republic to ask them to confirm or otherwise whether this child was in what is known as the ‘at risk’ category.
“If the HSC can confirm that the second child had underlying health problems this will support the assertion that swine flu poses a low risk to healthy children.”
Mr Wells added that the evidence given to the Committee “clearly indicates that swine flu is particularly prevalent amongst the 24 to 55 age group and that all pregnant women should be vaccinated as a matter of urgency.
“The number of young children with swine flu is much lower this winter than during the same period last year. One of the main reasons for this seems to be the high level of immunity brought about by the significant number of under 5’s who were immunised last year (38%). There have also been many children who have had swine flu and this also gives them a high level of protection against further infection.
“All of the above information would indicate that mass vaccination is not the best way forward at this time. The PHA will however be keeping the situation under constant review and I and other members of the Health Committee will be seeking regular updates on this very important issue”.