An influenza pandemic is a global epidemic caused by a new influenza virus to which most people have no existing immunity. They happen several times in a century, when the flu virus undergoes major changes, but it is difficult to predict when a pandemic will occur. Pandemic influenza can cause severe disease in certain at-risk groups. However, healthy people are also likely to experience more serious disease than that caused by seasonal influenza because they do not have any immunity to this new virus.
Seasonal influenza is different. Each year seasonal influenza circulates in Ireland and it can cause serious illness. Seasonal influenza isn’t caused by new viruses, although the seasonal flu viruses changes slightly each year which is why a new vaccine is needed each year to protect from the strains of flu currently circulating.
In June 2009 the World Health Organization declared a worldwide pandemic caused by the “swine flu” virus. “Swine flu” vaccines were developed to protect people from the virus and to stop the “swine flu” virus fromspreading and causing illness and death. .
Two pandemic flu vaccines were used in Ireland. These vaccines were called Pandemrix, manufactured by GSK and Celvapan, manufactured by Baxter. These vaccines were licensed by the European Commission following an assessment process by the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) in conjunction with the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) (now Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA)). These vaccines were used in many countries in Europe and across the world to protect people against “swine flu” and the potentially serious complications of the disease.
In Ireland, “swine flu” vaccines were offered to
- People (over 6 months of age) with chronic conditions including
- Chronic Respiratory Disease
- Chronic Heart Disease
- Chronic Renal Disease
- Chronic Liver Disease
- Chronic Neurological Disease
- Conditions causing immunosuppression (and household contacts)
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Morbidity Obesity
- Pregnant women
- School children in primary and secondary schools
- Healthcare workers
- People over 65 years of age
Vaccines were given in HSE vaccination clinics, schools, hospitals and through GPs.
It is estimated that as many as 575,400 people died as a result of the “swine flu” pandemic. During the “swine flu” pandemic 27 people died in Ireland as a result of getting “swine flu” virus and more than 1000 people needed to be hospitalised as a result of getting “swine flu” virus.
In August 2010 the World Health Organization declared the swine flu pandemic was over.
The HSE no longer uses Pandemrix or Celvapan vaccines - they have not been used here since 2011.
It is important that people in risk groups for influenza receive the seasonal flu vaccine each year to protect them against the circulating seasonal flu strain. For information about seasonal flu vaccine visit www.hse.ie/flu
This page was added on 17 October 2019