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Pregnant women, over 65s and other at-risk groups urged to get flu vaccine

At-risk groups receive the jab free-of-charge.

The HSE is asking people to get the flu vaccine if it is recommended for them.
The HSE is asking people to get the flu vaccine if it is recommended for them.
Image: Sasko Lazarov

AT-RISK GROUPS including pregnant women and people aged over 65 are being urged to get a free flu vaccine to protect against serious illness from the virus.

In Ireland, between 200 and 500 people die from flu each winter. Every year around the world, flu causes between three and five million cases of severe disease and up to 646,000 deaths.

The jab is designed to help protect people most at risk from the flu. This year it’s being recommended to people in the following groups:

  • People aged 65 and over,
  • Health care workers,
  • Children aged 2-17,
  • People at any stage of pregnancy,
  • People with certain medical conditions which put them at increased risk from the complications of flu.

The vaccine is available from GPs, pharmacies, occupational health departments and, for those who work in healthcare, peer vaccination programmes.

People who wish to get a flu jab who are not in one of the recommended groups can arrange it privately but the service is not free of charge, as it is for those in the recommended groups.

Healthcare workers are being encouraged to get the vaccination to protect themselves and to prevent the spread of the flu to colleagues, families and patients.

The majority of healthcare workers are being offered their vaccine at work or through some GPs and pharmacies. 

Flu vaccines usually reduce the risk of infection by 40-60%. The inoculation starts to work within two weeks.

Three different vaccines are being used for this year’s flu programme and they protect  against four different strains of the flu virus. These are the strains most likely to be circulating this year. 

People with long term conditions will receive the Quadrivalent vaccine manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur.

People aged 65 years and over will receive the Fluad Tetra manufactured by Seqirus.

Children aged 2-17 will receive the Fluenz Tetra vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca.

The flu vaccine doesn’t protect against Covid-19 and the coronavirus jab doesn’t protect against the flu. This is because the illnesses are caused by different viruses.

Flu vaccines have been given to millions of people worldwide for over 60 years, including pregnant women. Reactions to the inoculation are generally mild.

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Dr Aparna Keegan, of the HSE National Immunisation Office, issued a reminder that flu is a serious illness.

“Although the severity of the flu season can vary, we know that people aged 65 and over are most likely to be impacted and have an increased likelihood of severe illness, being admitted into hospital or dying from flu when compared to the general population. The flu vaccine is the best protection against flu this winter,” Dr Keegan said.

As Ireland emerges from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said it is vital to remember that there are other viruses that can inflict an enormous toll on the most at-risk in society and on the healthcare system.

“Flu is an unpleasant illness for the majority, but for some it is life-threatening, resulting in serious illness and hospitalisation. Regrettably, up to 500 people in Ireland die from this disease every year,” Donnelly said.

“This is why it is so important that, if you are eligible to get a flu vaccine, you do so as soon as it is offered to you. A flu vaccine will protect those aged over 65 from the very worst effects of flu. For healthcare workers, getting vaccinated means protecting themselves, their patients, and their families,” he added.

Further details about flu season can be found on the HSE’s flu website.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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