The HSE has urged older people to protect themselves against flu this winter by taking up a free vaccine.
In a statement today (Monday, October 4th), it said the flu vaccine will help protect those most at risk of serious illness from flu.
Up to 500 people in Ireland die from this disease every year.
The HSE reminded the public that the flu vaccine does not protect against Covid-19. Therefore, it stated that it is important to get both the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine.
Free flu vaccine
This year, the HSE recommends the free flu vaccine if you are in one of the following groups:
- Aged 65 and over;
- A health care worker;
- A child aged 2 – 17;
- At any stage of pregnancy;
- People with certain medical conditions, which put them at increased risk from the complications of flu.
Those aged 65 and over
The HSE outlined that if you are 65 or over, you are at higher risk of serious illness or complications such as pneumonia if you get the flu.
This 2021-2022 flu season, the flu vaccine it is offering to people aged over 65 is called Fluad Tetra.
This is an adjuvanted vaccine, which means it contains an ingredient that stimulates the immune system. Therefore, it makes it more effective against flu in older people.
The HSE explained it is being offered in Ireland for the first time this year. However, a similar vaccine has been utilised for several years in various countries, including the UK and the USA.
Those aged 65 years and over can contact their GP or local pharmacy to make an appointment.
People aged 65 years and over who live in long-term residential care facilities will be offered this vaccine where they live.
The HSE added that flu vaccination is important to protect yourself and prevent the flu’s spread to colleagues, families, and patients if you are a healthcare worker.
Most healthcare workers are being offered their flu vaccine at work or through some GPs and pharmacies.
Healthcare workers aged 65 or over can go to their GP or pharmacist to avail of the recommended vaccine.
Also, the HSE highlighted that some people are being offered an additional Covid-19 vaccine or booster at this time.
Additional doses are being offered to people with a weakened immune system.
It will offer booster doses shortly to those over 65 living in residential care or those over 80 living in the community.
“Covid-19 vaccines and the flu vaccine can be taken separately or together. It is safe to get a Covid-19 vaccine at the same time as the flu vaccine,” it explained.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said: “As we emerge from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital to remember that there are other viruses that can take an enormous toll upon the most at-risk in our society, as well as those working in our healthcare system.”
“Flu is an unpleasant illness for the majority. However, for some, it is life-threatening, resulting in serious illness and hospitalisation.”
“This is why it is so important that, if you are eligible to get a flu vaccine, you do so as soon as it is offered to you.”
He said the flu vaccine will protect those aged over 65 from the very worst effects of flu. He added that getting vaccinated means protecting themselves, their patients, and their families for healthcare workers.
“Last year, we saw encouraging uptake among healthcare workers. My hope is that this trend will continue this year.”
Dr Aparna Keegan, a specialist in public health medicine and flu lead, HSE National Immunisation Office, reiterated that the flu vaccine is the best protection against flu this winter.