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Nasal flu vaccine extended to teenagers due to low take-up

Only 190,000 LAIV vaccines have been administered since October, out of 460,000 distributed.

Image: Shutterstock/H_Ko

THE ELIGIBILITY FOR the free nasal flu vaccine has been extended to teenagers up to 17 years of age due to the low uptake among children. 

The LAIV (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine), which is administered through a single spray in each nostril rather than an injection,  had previously been free for kids aged two to 12 years. 

Since October, over 190,000 LAIV vaccines have been administered, out of 460,000 doses distributed to GPs and pharmacists around the country. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced the extension this evening and encouraged parents to get their kids vaccinated “to protect them and others”.

“Getting the flu vaccine is another way to look after your children’s health. Children are more likely than adults to get very sick from the flu, and they also may pass on the virus for a longer period of time than adults,” said Donnelly. 

“By arranging for them to get a free flu vaccine, you will help to protect your children from a potentially serious illness. You will also help others in your family and community by reducing the potential to spread the flu.”

The HSE said it was important parent’s get their children vaccinated soon as the first batches of the nasal flu vaccine are due to expire in the middle of January. 

The move was welcomed by The Irish Pharmacy Union, who said it was an important step in reducing the risk of children and teenagers spreading flu to vulnerable people. 

“Flu is a very serious and contagious respiratory illness. While it disproportionately affects older people, it is deeply unpleasant at all ages and can have serious long-term impacts,”  IPU Treasurer Ann Marie Horan said.

“Teenagers tend to have a wide range of close contacts, especially in school, and therefore vaccinating them should help maintain the low rates of flu transmission seen so far this season.”

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Clare Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway called on Donnelly to roll out an information campaign highlighting the importance of the vaccine to encourage uptake. 

“Given the low take-up rate to date, it is time for a comprehensive awareness campaign to encourage people to get this vaccine.

“All the focus is on the incoming Covid-19 vaccine right now but we must ensure a good take up of the nasal flu vaccine also in order to protect the health of our population.”

The vaccine is not compulsory, but parents or guardians who want their children to be vaccinated can arrange this with their GP or pharmacist.

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Adam Daly

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