The HSE is urging people in at-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza this winter.
Healthcare staff working across the MidWest are also joining forces from this week with a major vaccination programme to protect their patients from flu.
“Seasonal flu can be very serious not only for the at-risk groups but even for young healthy people,” said Dr Rose Fitzgerald, Specialist in Public Health, Limerick. “Every year, we see people become seriously unwell from flu and every year, unfortunately, we see people die from flu.”
The following groups of at-risk people should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza:
- Everyone aged 65 years and over
- Pregnant women
- 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, cancer or those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment
- Residents of nursing homes and other long stay facilities
- People who have physical or intellectual disabilities, as indicated
- Healthcare workers
- Carers of people in medical at-risk categories
- People in regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.
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 is a quadrivalent vaccine which protects against the four strains of flu virus recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the strains most likely to be circulating in the northern hemisphere this season. I would urge all the at-risk groups, including healthcare staff, to get the flu vaccine,” Dr Fitzgerald said.
She was speaking as UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid West Community Healthcare this Thursday joined forces to launch their own internal flu campaigns aimed at vaccinating thousands of healthcare workers in community, primary, mental health and acute hospital settings across Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary.
The staff vaccination drive coincides with the launch the HSE’s national flu campaign. All the at-risk groups are encouraged to get the vaccine, which available free of charge from their GP or pharmacist.
Healthcare workers, too, are a crucial part of the picture in protecting patients and the population at large against flu. In the coming weeks, occupational health clinics will be run across the MidWest to maximise vaccine uptake among health workers. These are being augmented through the work of peer vaccinators who have been appointed in every workplace to ensure as many colleagues as possible get the flu shot.
Healthcare staff are much more likely to get flu compared to the general population. It is estimated that at least 20% of healthcare workers are infected with flu every year. Flu vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers to protect them getting flu and to reduce the risk of them transmitting it to their family, colleagues and patients. Healthcare workers are in contact with elderly and at risk patients whose immunity may be suppressed and they rely on the immunity of those who care for them to keep them safe from flu
Chief Officer of HSE Mid West Community Healthcare Maria Bridgeman commented: “Flu can be very serious, I think it is imperative everybody gets the flu vaccination, not only to protect themselves but to protect their family, colleagues and patients. Our staff in particular visit many patients from newborn babies to the elderly within the community and it is so important we protect the people we look after”
Margaret Quigley, Director of Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group, said: “The vaccine is the best means we have of fighting flu and of reducing infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisations. By doing our best to stay well, we reduce the risk to more vulnerable members of our community, including the pregnant women. 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.”
Margaret Carroll, CNM2, University Hospital Limerick, is one of a number of peer vaccinators working across the six hospitals to maximise uptake among colleagues.
“It is encouraging to see that uptake of the vaccine among healthcare workers has continued to increase but we can still do much more to protect our patients, our families and ourselves from flu this winter. As part of this year’s campaign, peer vaccinators are expanding the number of mobile clinics to improve access for staff working on the wards,” said Ms Carroll.
The HSE’s dedicated immunisation website – www.immunisation.ie – provides details on the annual flu vaccination, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine for over 65s and people in medical at-risk groups and Whooping Cough vaccine for pregnant women , along with answers to any questions people may have about flu. Information leaflets are available to download and are also available in GP surgeries, pharmacists and HSE Local Health Offices. See www.hse.ie/flu for more information. #YourBestShot