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Healthcare workers urged to get flu vaccine

The HSE today urged people in at-risk groups, including healthcare workers, to get vaccinated against influenza.

Staff flu vaccination uptake levels in the 2018/2019 season was 53.2 per cent for hospital staff and 42.2 per cent for long term care facility (LTCF) staff; compared to 34 per cent in the 2016/2017 season for hospital staff and 27.1 per cent for LTCF staff.

Figures also show that vaccine uptake rates in people aged 65 and over increased in Ireland last year. The HSE’s flu vaccine lead, Dr John Cuddihy, underlined that the vaccine is a lifesaver as flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease, with potentially 1,000 flu-related deaths in Ireland during a severe flu season.

 “Recent national uptake figures indicate that 68.5 per cent of people aged 65 and over who hold a medical card or GP visit card received the flu vaccine during the 2018/2019 flu season, a substantial increase on last year when the uptake rate was 57.6 per cent,” said Dr Cuddihy.

 “People need to remember that flu causes severe illness and death in Ireland every year. That is why those who are most vulnerable to the complications of flu need to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine is the best defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at-risk groups fail to get vaccinated and so put themselves at risk of serious illness or even death.”

HSE CEO Mr Paul Reid said substantial efforts have been made by hospitals and Community Healthcare Organisations to enhance staff flu vaccine uptake and this has resulted in “significant improvements” in many hospitals and LTCFs. 

“This work needs to continue with renewed emphasis this flu season as the flu vaccine saves lives,” he said.

Speaking today, Minister for Health Simon Harris said vaccination “remains the most effective means of preventing infection by seasonal influenza viruses”.  

“We have seen improvement in vaccination rates among our healthcare staff in recent years but this still remains far too low. The vaccine is a lifesaver because flu can be a very serious and sometimes deadly disease.

“I would encourage all healthcare staff to avail of the flu vaccine and show leadership in this regard. By receiving the flu vaccine, you protect the vulnerable people in your care as well as yourself.”

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; and people in regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.

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