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Debunked: No, children won't be banned from attending school if they don't get the flu vaccine

Children aged two to 12 years can get the flu jab for free this year, but it’s not compulsory.

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A POST BEING widely shared on Facebook claims that children will be banned from attending school if they don’t get the flu vaccine.

The post includes a video of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar discussing the fact the flu vaccine will be free this winter for children aged two to 12 years. He also mentions the amount of the vaccine the HSE has ordered. 

At no point in the video does he state that children who don’t get the vaccine will not be allowed to attend school – but the caption added to the post does.

In the video, Varadkar addresses TDs during a sitting of a Dáil at the Convention Centre in Dublin. He states that the flu vaccine will be available for free for children aged two to 12 “for the first time in a long time, perhaps even the first time ever in Ireland”, as well as for at-risk groups.

At-risk groups aged from six months to 69 years will also be able to get the vaccine for free, as part of measures announced back in May. People aged 70 and over already have access for free and this will continue.

However, getting the vaccine is not compulsory for any particular age group.

shutterstock_689566009 File photo Source: Shutterstock/Rosie Parsons

“The extension will permit all of those in at-risk groups aged from six months and above, as well as all healthcare workers, to avail of the vaccine free of charge.

“The extension will also provide access to children aged two to 12 years old inclusive, and that’ll be the nasal drop vaccine rather than the injection,” Varadkar states.

He notes that the HSE has placed orders for 1.35 million doses of the quadrivalent influenza vaccine for the forthcoming winter, saying “this will be sufficient for a 90% uptake among at-risk groups including healthcare workers, and that’s a much higher uptake that we would have had in the past”.

Varadkar states that, in addition to this, 600,000 doses of the nasal drop vaccine for children have been ordered, adding that this would provide for a 75% uptake rate among children.

Not true

A spokesperson for the Department of Education confirmed that children will not be banned from attending school if they don’t get the flu vaccine, stating “this information is incorrect”.

“Children can attend school without receiving the flu vaccine,” they told TheJournal.ie.

The spokesperson noted that children who are sick with flu “miss days in crèche, childcare and school” and “also miss out on their usual activities such as hobbies and sports”.

“The flu vaccine will help protect children against flu and reduce the spread of flu to others. For example, their brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health also said the claim in the Facebook post is incorrect, noting that vaccination is not mandatory for children.

However, they said: “We would encourage parents and guardians to have their children vaccinated and ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society are protected from a serious disease.

“Children will have a nasal spray rather than an injection, and further detailed information on the vaccine is available from the HSE website.”

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The seasonal flu vaccine (flu jab) protects against four strains of the flu virus. These are the strains most likely to be circulating this flu season.

Flu season runs from September until the end of April. The flu vaccine for at-risk groups will be available from the end of September 2020. The flu vaccine for children will be available from the end of October 2020.

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not.

STOP, THINK AND CHECK

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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