Press Release

Tánaiste welcomes beginning of the 2005 Influenza Vaccination Campaign

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., today (4th October 2005) 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 over 65s, to go to their GP for vaccination. It is especially 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 Tánaiste.

The Tánaiste added that “the influenza vaccine is highly effective against the complications of influenza. Its impact in reducing mortality from influenza in older people is well documented. Protection lasts about one year so it is important that at risk people are vaccinated annually against the most recent strains”.

Influenza vaccine is available free of charge from general practitioners to medical card holders 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, as well as those with a suppressed immune system. For persons in the at risk groups complications arising from influenza such as pneumonia are common and can be fatal, particularly in the elderly.

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

Influenza vaccine contains inactivated influenza virus and therefore cannot cause influenza. It does however take 10 -14 days to start protecting recipients against the disease. All those for whom immunisation is recommended are encouraged to avail of the vaccine at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Tánaiste also took the opportunity to urge those in the at risk groups who have not previously been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease to avail of this vaccine in addition to the influenza 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.

Concluding the Tánaiste thanked all of those involved in organising this year’s campaign at local, regional and national level.