Press Release

Micheál Martin T.D., Minister for Health and Children launches 2003/2004 Influenza Vaccination Campaign

Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children launched this year´s Influenza Vaccination Campaign today at the Irish College of General Practitioners.

Speaking at the launch the Minister urged those at risk of contracting the flu, especially those over 65, to go to their GP for immunisation. “The vaccines have already been distributed to health boards and GP practices throughout the country. I would also urge GP’s to ensure that the ´at risk´ patients in their practice are contacted and invited to attend for vaccination as soon as possible”.

Commenting at the launch, Minister Martin said “many respiratory diseases occur every winter but influenza is one of the most severe. The WHO states that influenza typically infects 10% – 20% of the total population during seasonal epidemics, resulting in between three and five million cases of severe illness and at least 250,000 – 500,000 deaths each year worldwide. The WHO recently called for the vaccination of people at high risk of contracting influenza as a matter of urgency. The WHO recommendations are especially aimed at reducing the number of cases in the high risk groups where influenza often leads to severe pneumonia and other serious illness due to pre-existing chronic diseases”.

“The vaccine is available free of charge from GP´s to medical card holders who are deemed to be at risk of contracting the disease. The ´at risk´ groups include persons aged 65 years or older, those with specific chronic illness such as chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, and those with a suppressed immune system. In circumstances where a patient is in an ´at risk´ group but is not a medical card holder, there is no charge for the vaccine as this is provided free of charge to the GP from health board supplies; however, the fee for administering the vaccine in such cases is a matter between the GP and the patient”.

“The Immunisation Advisory Committee of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland advises that influenza vaccine should be considered for all health care workers who have direct patient contact in both the community and health care institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. Health Boards have been asked encourage health care workers to be immunised annually against influenza”.

Concluding the Minister noted that there will be in excess of half a million doses of a vaccine available under the 2003/2004 programme.