Last week, the HSE launched the annual Flu vaccine campaign, aimed at encouraging healthcare workers and at-risk groups to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza.
At-risk people include 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, residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities and healthcare workers.
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 since last year. 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.
Noah, aged 7 from Kildare, has asthma and is in the at-risk group. At the launch, his mum, Barbra, said
“Noah was diagnosed with Asthma when he was 2 years old and it’s an on-going job, working with the respiratory team in Temple Street and his GP to keep it managed. Being a nurse and asthmatic myself, I know how important it is that we’re both protected from the flu so it’s a no brainer as far as I’m concerned, we both get the vaccine every year”
Noah said “I know I have to have my flu shot because I have asthma and it stops me getting sick so I don’t mind and I try to be really brave. And I usually get a treat after so that’s pretty cool.”
Also at the launch was Brian O’Sullivan. Brian was representing the at-risk group of people aged 65 and over.
“Nobody likes to think of themselves as getting older, and I am very active, play tennis and my wife makes sure I’m kept busy, but if I’m more at risk, then taking sensible steps to protect myself, like getting the flu jab, makes good sense. This is the first time I’ve had the flu jab, it was free, easy to get, only took a few minutes, and if it protects me against the flu this winter, then it’s worth it.”
The HSE’s Flu Lead, Dr. Kevin Kelleher, Assistant National Director Public Health said:
“People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the only defence against flu, yet every year less than half of the at-risk groups get vaccinated.”
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.
Healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, therapists and carers also need to get the seasonal flu vaccine every year. It is important that all those working in frontline healthcare protect themselves from getting the flu but also to prevent spreading the flu to vulnerable patients. Older and at risk patients may not get sufficient protection from the vaccine themselves so people who care for them need to be vaccinated. The flu vaccine is available free to healthcare workers from their local Occupational Health department.
Read the full story and find out how to get protected here