Eileen Whelan has been appointed the National Lead for the Testing, Contact Tracing and the Vaccination Programme. Prior to this, Eileen was Chief Director of Nursing & Midwifery & Quality in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.
Eileen is a registered nurse, with over 30 years’ experience in health services in Ireland and internationally. She has spent her career delivering integrated care to patients, and enhancing professional practice to support better outcomes and a better experience for patients.
Taking up the role, Eileen discussed the current trends in vaccination this Winter and urged all healthcare workers to take up the vaccine:
“Healthcare workers are encouraged to protect themselves, their families and vulnerable patients from circulating viruses this winter.
“This year, there is a heightened risk of a tripledemic from the combination of influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and Covid-19 which could seriously impact people’s health and overwhelm our health services.
“The data also shows low immunity in certain cohorts of the population, which places increased risk of infection from respiration viruses on certain groups of people, as well as low uptake of both the influenza vaccine and the Covid-19 boosters.
“Another concern is the low uptake of the vaccines by healthcare workers. By quarter 4 2021, 80% of healthcare workers received their first Covid-19 booster vaccine. Since the availability of a second booster for healthcare workers in August this year, only 17% of all healthcare workers have availed of the vaccine. The uptake of Covid-19 booster by medical and dental staff is 24%; 19% by nursing and midwifery staff and 15% by healthcare support staff. Furthermore, flu vaccination uptake is lower this year than in previous years ranging from 22% to 46%. The flu vaccine uptake among healthcare workers in 2021/22 was 64% and 71% in 2020/21.
“This is a significant concern, particularly as we approach the festive season where there is increased opportunity for viruses to transmit.
“Vaccination remains the most important step in preventing respiratory illness. Both the flu vaccine and Covid-19 booster vaccine reduce respiratory related illness and the risk of complications that can result in hospitalisation or even death. With the Covid-19 vaccine immunity wanes over time, so it is important to get the booster vaccine when recommended.
“I would urge everyone who can to take up vaccination. There is still time to get your influenza and Covid-19 booster vaccine and help protect yourself and those around you.”