Help Support Cork Safety Alerts – Donate the price of a coffee here via Stripe:

The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has announced Government approval for an innovative infant Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Immunisation Pathfinder Programme. Set to run from September 2024 to February 2025, the initiative aims to reduce the significant strain RSV places on the healthcare system by decreasing illnesses and hospitalisations among young children.

The programme follows the National Immunisation Advisory Committee’s (NIAC) recommendation to use monoclonal antibody immunisation for the 2024/2025 season. An estimated 28,000 infants will be offered the vaccine during this period.

Drawing from successful outcomes of a similar initiative in Spain, it is projected that the Irish programme will prevent up to 453 hospitalisations and 48 ICU admissions.

Minister Donnelly stated:

“Last winter saw the highest number of RSV hospitalisations among children, especially babies under one year. The Government’s approval of this programme is a direct response to this issue, aiming to reduce illness and alleviate pressure on our healthcare services over the winter.

This Pathfinder programme will inform the development of future RSV programmes aimed at reducing illnesses and hospitalisation.”

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Colette Bonner, emphasised the programme’s benefits:

“This initiative will protect young babies from RSV and safeguard our health service capacity during the upcoming winter season. I encourage parents of eligible infants to avail of the immunisation as it becomes available.”

Implemented by the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Pathfinder programme is a temporary measure for the 2024/2025 RSV season. Modifications may be made based on the outcomes of Health Technology Assessments (HTAs) currently conducted by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

Notes to Editor:

  • Pathfinder Programmes explore innovative approaches to improving health outcomes and can be scaled if successful.
  • The RSV Immunisation Pathfinder Programme was developed following NIAC advice and will offer protection to infants immediately and for approximately five months.
  • A similar programme in Galicia, Spain, saw an 89% reduction in hospitalisations for immunised infants.
  • HIQA’s ongoing HTAs will determine the most beneficial and cost-effective RSV immunisation strategy, influencing the development of a long-term programme.