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HSE to begin preparations for next flu season in summer

The National Flu Planning Steering Group is not holding meetings during the current Covid-19 pandemic, this newspaper has been told. However, the HSE said the group will begin work in the summer to refocus on its winter flu planning efforts.

The group normally holds regular meetings through-out the year and coordinates the health service response to the annual flu season.

“The National Flu Planning Steering Group is not meeting during this period as the HSE mobilises to fight the spread of Covid-19,” a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) on Tuesday 31 March.

MI asked whether the group would be looking at how the regular winter flu season later this year could be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and whether the annual campaign to encourage the uptake of the flu vaccine would be influenced by Covid-19.

“Encouraging strong uptake of the flu vaccine is an ongoing focus of our winter planning efforts and we are planning to resume this work during the summer,” said the Executive spokesperson.

Last October the HSE launched its flu season campaign with the elderly and those in ‘at risk groups’ the main focus of the Executive’s campaign to increase uptake of the flu vaccine. The previous year the main target for flu vaccine uptake were healthcare workers (HCW).

In 2018-2019, influenza vaccine uptake for all HCWs in the 51 HSE hospitals was 53.2 per cent, up from 44.8 per cent in 2017-2018, according to a report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), published in June last year.

The HPSC described this increase as “statistically significant”.

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