Press Release

Minister welcomes beginning of the 2007 Influenza Vaccination Campaign

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., today (8th October 2007) welcomed the start of the Influenza Vaccination Campaign.

The purpose of the media campaign is to remind those people at risk of contracting flu and who have not yet received the vaccine to do so immediately. “I encourage all those at risk, especially those over 65 years of age, to go to their GP for vaccination. It is important that all carers and healthcare workers get the flu vaccine as it will protect them, their families and those in their care”, said the Minister.

The Minister explained that the Department of Health and Children and the HSE advise on the appropriate vaccine to be used annually based on the recommendations of the World Health Organisation. The Minister said that “each year the HSE orders supplies of vaccine and distributes them to GPs, hospitals and long-stay residential facilities”.The Minister added that “the vaccine is highly effective against complications of flu. Its impact in reducing mortality from flu in older people is well documented. The flu virus changes every year so it is important that at risk people are vaccinated annually against the most recent strains”.

The Minister also pointed out that “it has been shown that increasing the uptake of influenza vaccine by at risk groups, particularly older people, results in significant health and socioeconomic benefits”.

Flu vaccine is available free of charge from general practitioners to all those at risk of contracting the disease. The “at risk” groups include persons aged 65 years or older, healthcare workers and carers, and those under 65 years with specific chronic illness such as chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, or with a suppressed immune system. For persons in the “at risk” groups, complications arising from flu such as pneumonia are common and can be fatal, particularly in older people.

For those in the “at risk” group with a medical card there is no charge for either the vaccine or the administration of the vaccine.

In circumstances where a patient is in the “at risk” groups, but is not a medical card holder, there is no charge for the actual vaccine as this is provided free of charge to general practitioners from HSE supplies. However, the fee for administering the vaccine in such cases is a matter between the general practitioner and the patient.

All those for whom immunisation is recommended are encouraged to avail of the flu vaccine at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Minister is also encouraging people in the “at risk” groups who have not previously been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease to avail of this vaccine in addition to the flu vaccine. This vaccine is also available free of charge from general practitioners to medical card holders at risk of contracting the disease. While the flu vaccine must be repeated annually, this is not necessary for pneumococcal vaccine because it provides longer term immunity.

Further information is available on the HSE’s dedicated immunisation website, www.immunisation.ie, including details on the vaccination campaign and answers to questions people may have about flu.