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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 November, 2019
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'Get the vaccine, not the flu' urges HSE

The HSE is advising at-risk people to get the flu vaccine as it “can be a very serious illness”.

Image: David Jones/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE HSE IS urging people in at-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza.

Flu season is now here, and the HSE warns that flu can be a very serious illness, especially for people who are older or who have a long-term illness.

Uptake

National uptake figures show that 56.5 per cent of people aged 65 and over who hold a medical card or GP visit card received the flu vaccine during the 2011-2012 flu season.

This is down from 60 per cent during the 2010-2011 season and less than the World Health Organization target of 75 per cent.

The HSE advises the following groups of at-risk people to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza:

  • Everyone aged 65 years and over
  • Anyone over six months of age with a long term illness requiring regular medical follow-up such as chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease, diabetes or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
  • Pregnant women
  • Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities

Virus strains

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three common flu virus strains expected to be circulating this year based on advice from the World Health Organization. The HSE notes that it is important for all those in the at risk groups to be vaccinated again this year as the virus strains in the vaccine have changed.

Seasonal flu vaccines are safe and have been given for more than 60 years to millions of people across the world. Reactions are generally mild and serious side effects are very rare.

It also says that healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, therapists and carers also need to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year.

Head of the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran said:

Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness and pregnant women. Seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure that they are protected.

She added that flu is spread by coughing and sneezing so people should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue, disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and washing their hands with soap and water as soon as possible to help prevent it spreading.

Some people in the at-risk groups may also need pneumococcal vaccine which is available from GPs. The HSE has a dedicated immunisation website at www.immunisation.ie

Read: HSE issues warning over low dosage flu vaccines>

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