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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Sam Boal/ Health Minister Simon Harris.
winter flu

Patients 'have a right to ask doctors and nurses if they have received the flu vaccine'

Health Minister Simon Harris said just one third of all health workers got the vaccine last year.

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has said health workers have an obligation to their patients to get the flu vaccine.

Launching the annual flu vaccine campaign today, he said while uptake levels are on the rise, the figures are still “appallingly” low with just 31% of hospital workers getting immunised last year.

Uptake among healthcare workers in long-term care institutions, such as nursing homes also increased to 28.1% up from 24.4% in the 2015/2016 season.

Harris said the vaccine can save lives, and encouraged all unions and health institutions to get behind the programme.

‘Obligation to your patients’

“You will be coming in contact with sick people during a period when the flu can become quite an issue. You have an obligation to your patients I believe to get the vaccination. And I would say to patients, you have a right to ask those that are looking after you in the hospital, in the nursing home, in the community setting, have they been vaccinated,” he told reporters today.

Flu is responsible for between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland and in a severe season it can cause up to 1,000 deaths, according to HSE Assistant National Director for Health Protection, Dr Kevin Kelleher.

In May, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Association reacted angrily to an assertion made by Dr Kelleher during a Dáil committee hearing that giving nurses chocolates and iPads helped to increase the uptake of the vaccine.

That opinion was further defended by HSE director general Tony O’Brien who said Dr Kelleher was “relating examples of initiatives that have worked in reality”. Harris made it clear today that he did not make that statement, but said the HSE was doing all it could to encourage workers to get vaccinated.

The HSE has said that “vaccine hesitancy is increasingly becoming a major issue”.

Flu infection 

“The best way to prevent flu is to get the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is a safe, effective a way to help prevent flu infection, avoid hospitalisation and flu related deaths and illnesses,” said Harris.

“The flu vaccine is the only defence against the flu, yet many healthcare workers fail to get vaccinated and put themselves and patients at risk of serious illness.”

FLU VACCINE LAUNCH 758A5687_90525253 Eamonn Farrell Minister Harris officially launches the HSE’s 2017/2018 Flu Vaccine campaign targeting healthcare workers. Eamonn Farrell

“Getting protected from flu with the flu vaccine is an important duty for any healthcare worker, because for them, or for their patients, it is a lifesaver.

Many of the people in our care are vulnerable to the life-threatening complications of flu – like people with long-term illnesses and conditions, pregnant women, and anyone aged 65 and over. The simple fact is that if we cannot get the flu, we cannot pass it on to them – it’s their best shot.

The flu vaccine is available free of charge to healthcare workers from their local occupational health department. It’s recommended the following professions get the vaccine.

  • Medical, nursing and allied health professionals
  • Medical, nursing and allied health students
  • Dental personnel
  • Hospital porters and household staff
  • Ambulance personnel
  • Carers and home helps
  • All GP practice staff
  • Agency staff who fall into the above categories

Further information is available for healthcare workers on

Read: Following chocolate comments, HSE says ‘incentives’ have helped vaccination rate rise 50%>

Read: Cost of new Dublin properties up €39,000 compared to last year>

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