By Dominic McGrath, PA
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has urged those most vulnerable to get the free flu vaccine as the country heads into the winter.
Mr Donnelly called on anyone eligible for a jab to ensure they were protected from the flu and said that high uptake would also help ease the toll on Ireland’s fragile health system.
Anyone aged 65 and over is eligible for a free flu vaccine, alongside healthcare workers and children aged between two and 17.
Pregnant women are also able to receive a free flu jab, as well as those with certain medical conditions.
Mr 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.”
Mr Donnelly said that people should take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to them.
He added: “A flu vaccine will protect those aged over 65 from the very worst effects of flu. For healthcare workers, getting vaccinated means protecting themselves, their patients, and their families.
“Last year we saw encouraging uptake among healthcare workers and my hope is that this trend will continue this year.”
In Ireland, between 200 and 500 people die from flu each winter.
Health officials are reminding people that the flu vaccine does not protect against Covid-19.
Dr Aparna Keegan, from the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, said that flu is a “serious illness”.
We know that people aged 65 and over are most likely to impacted
“Although the severity of the flu season can vary, we know that people aged 65 and over are most likely to impacted and have an increased likelihood of severe illness, being admitted into hospital or dying from flu when compared to the general population.”
“The flu vaccine is the best protection against flu this winter.”
Ireland has among the highest rates of Covid-19 vaccine take-up in Europe, with more than 91 per cent of over-16s fully vaccinated.
The country has now moved to offering a booster vaccine to some vulnerable groups.
Health officials have said that it is safe to get the Covid-19 vaccine at the same time as a flu jab.