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Pharmacists call for flu vaccine to be free for everyone

The Irish Pharmacy Union has said a plan must be developed to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed next winter, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/DonyaHHI

THE FLU VACCINE should be free to everyone who wants it in the 2020-2021 flu season, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has said.

The union has called for the “a robust plan” to be developed “to combat flu and prevent it from overwhelming the health system” next winter.

Eoghan Hanly, a community pharmacist and IPU vice president, said that society has “learned a lot about epidemiology and health” in recent weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and we should capitalise on this.

“Previously alien concepts such as ‘social distancing’, ‘community transmission’ and ‘herd immunity’ are now well understood.

“We must now seize the opportunity presented by these greater levels of public understanding and step up the fight against the perennial problem of seasonal flu.”

More than 4,000 people were hospitalised in Ireland due to the flu in the 2019-2020 season.

Hanly said everything must be done ahead of next winter “to reduce the impact of flu to preserve capacity in our health system, particularly as the uncertainty surrounding the impact of Covid-19 remains”.

1.1 million vaccines last year

As well as making the flu vaccine free to everyone aged six months and above, the IPU has called for pharmacists to be allowed to administer flu vaccines outside of the pharmacy setting, in nursing homes and workplaces.

The union also wants a public information campaign to raise awareness about the availability and importance of children receiving the flu vaccine.

Hanly said Ireland “performs well by EU comparisons but we still fall short of the target of 75% of people over the age of 65 availing of the vaccine”.

Over 1.1 million flu vaccines were delivered in Ireland last year, the IPU said, an increase of 60% since pharmacies were first permitted to administer the vaccine a decade ago.

“Every year flu is cited as the reason for the annual challenges with our health system. We can and should do much more to prevent this. We can’t yet stop the coronavirus, but we can stop the flu,” Hanly added. 

TheJournal.ie has contacted the Department of Health for comment.

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Órla Ryan

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