To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the risks posed by respiratory viruses this winter to (1) children, (2) young people, and (3) the elderly; and what further medical protection measures they will put in place to tackle (a) respiratory syncytial virus, and (b) influenza.
Influenza remains a health threat, which is why the Government are offering flu vaccinations to more people this winter, including older people and, for the first time, all schoolchildren up to year 11. Reduced transmission of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, last winter led to a summer surge, particularly in child cases—there were few among elderly adults—which is now diminishing. Seasonal RSV preventive monoclonal antibodies for highly vulnerable children were authorised from June 2021.
My Lords, measures taken to combat Covid-19 over the last year have resulted in the epidemiology of seasonal viruses being out of sync with usual patterns. Last year, Public Health England reported concerns about rising rates of RSV infections in infants following the Covid-19 lockdowns, and reduced immunity levels combined with an already stretched health service. Given the continued pressures on the NHS, can the Minister outline what evaluation the Government have made of the NHS’s capacity to handle a potentially extended RSV season, and will they work with the devolved Administrations in that regard?
There was an unseasonal surge in RSV activity during the summer of 2021, which peaked in late July at about 15.7% swab positivity and a hospital admission rate of 2.5%. But, following the summer surge, RSV activity declined and positivity currently sits below seasonally expected levels. As a consequence, the RSV hospitalisation rate has declined since the summer surge.