The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, has today announced the extension of free flu vaccines to children up to the age of 17.
Previously, all children aged from 2 to 12 years inclusive were given free access to flu vaccines. This has now has been extended to include all children between the ages of 2 and 17. The LAIV (Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine) vaccine will be administered to children through a single spray in each nostril rather than an injection.
The vaccine is available at GPs and pharmacies. Parents are asked to bring their children for vaccination before the end of January.
To date since October, over 190,000 LAIV vaccines have been given to children aged from 2 to 12. Over 460,000 doses have been distributed to GPs and pharmacists and appointments for vaccination can be made immediately.
The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, said: “We are all doing what we can, this year more than ever, to protect the health of our families. Getting the flu vaccine is another way to look after your children’s health. Children are more likely than adults to get very sick from the flu, and they also may pass on the virus for a longer period of time than adults. By arranging for them to get a free flu vaccine, you will help to protect your children from a potentially serious illness. You will also help others in your family and community by reducing the potential to spread the flu.”
Clare Fine Gael Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Health, Martin Conway, has welcomed the announcement. He has also called on the Health Minister to roll out an information campaign highlighting the importance of the vaccine to encourage uptake.
Senator Conway said: “I have been raising this issue with the Minister for Health for some time, asking him to increase the age of eligibility for the free flu vaccine to teenagers up to 17 years of age.
“Unfortunately, the national uptake rate for the intranasal vaccine was quite low, reported at around 25 per cent.
“So, it is positive now that the vaccine will be extended to teenagers and I hope the resulting increase in immunisation will help reduce the spread of the flu to other more vulnerable groups. Children of all ages can still get the vaccine also.
“Given the low take up rate to date, it is time for a comprehensive awareness campaign to encourage people to get this vaccine. All the focus is on the incoming COVID-19 vaccine right now but we must ensure a good take up of the nasal flu vaccine also in order to protect the health of our population.”