Get the Vaccine – Not the Flu

– Over 65s, at risk groups and pregnant women urged to get flu vaccination

The HSE has urged people in at-risk groups to get vaccinated against
influenza. Flu can be a very serious illness, especially for people
who are older or who have a long-term illness.

The flu season is here and the following groups of at-risk people need
to be vaccinated against seasonal influenza:

* 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 or diabetes
* Pregnant women
* Those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
* Children or teenagers on long-term aspirin therapy
* Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities
* Healthcare workers and carers

Based on advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), this year’s
seasonal flu vaccine, available from GPs and pharmacists, protects
against three common flu virus strains including the H1N1 (swine flu)
strain which is still circulating this year.

Even if you received the vaccine last year, it is still important for
all those in the at risk groups to be vaccinated again this year as
immunity from the vaccine only lasts for up to twelve months and wanes
over time.

This year new regulations have been introduced by the Government to
allow pharmacists to give the flu vaccine. The vaccine is available
free of charge from GPs and pharmacists to all those in the at-risk
groups.

Anyone with a Medical Card or GP Visit Card will not be charged to
visit the doctor or pharmacist for the flu vaccine. GPs and
pharmacists charge a consultation fee to administer the vaccine to
patients without a Medical Card or GP Visit Card but the vaccine
itself is provided free of charge, by the HSE, for all those in the
at-risk groups.
Healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, therapists and carers,
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. The flu vaccine is available free to healthcare workers from
their local Occupational Health department.

Commenting, the Head of the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, Dr
Brenda Corcoran said that the vaccine is the best defence against flu,
as it reduces infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisation.

“Flu is very infectious and can cause potentially serious illnesses
especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness and
pregnant women. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine can be given at any
stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot
give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all
those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to
make sure that they are protected.

“The symptoms of flu usually develop over a matter of a few hours and
include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore
throat. Flu is different from the common cold, which tends to come on
more gradually and usually includes a runny nose and a normal
temperature.

“Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids
and use over-the-counter flu remedies to ease symptoms. People in
high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop flu
symptoms.

“Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough and sneeze,
disposing of the tissue as soon as possible and washing your hands
with soap and water as soon as you can are important measures in
helping prevent the spread of flu,” said Dr Corcoran.
In addition to seasonal flu vaccination, some people in the at-risk
groups may also need pneumococcal vaccine which is available free of
charge from GPs. Pneumococcal vaccine is not required every year –
most people only need to get it once, so those at risk should check
with their General Practitioner.

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.

The seasonal flu vaccine is different from the Pandemrix vaccine,
which was used during the swine flu pandemic. The HSE is currently
investigating possible links between Pandemrix and the onset of
narcolepsy in a small number of young people.

The HSE’s dedicated immunisation website – www.immunisation.ie –
provides details on the annual flu vaccination and the pneumococcal
vaccine, along with answers to any questions people may have about
flu. Information leaflets are available to download. Information
leaflets are also available in GP surgeries, pharmacists and HSE Local
Health Offices.