Flu vaccines should be free to everyone for coming season

The IPU says the time for planning for the 2020/21 season is now

The Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has called for a robust plan to be devised and deployed to prevent influenza from overwhelming the health system next season.

The IPU said that the time for planning is now and that a central pillar should be making the seasonal flu vaccine available to everyone for free this autumn.

Speaking about the importance of planning for seasonal flu, IPU Vice-President and Community Pharmacist Eoghan Hanly said: “As a society we have all learned a lot about epidemiology and health over the past few weeks.

“The flu season which just ended, led to the hospitalisation of over 4,000 people in Ireland. Next year we must do everything in our power to reduce the impact of flu to preserve capacity in our health system, particularly as the uncertainty surrounding the impact of Covid-19 remains.”

A series of recommendations have been proposed by the IPU to fight influenza in the 2020/21 season.

They propose free flu vaccine should be made available to everyone from six months old: the efficiencies of the system should be increased by allowing pharmacists administer flu vaccines outside of the pharmacy setting in nursing homes, and workplaces, and a public information campaign should raise awareness about the availability and importance of children receiving the flu vaccine.

“As the world waits with hope for a vaccine against Covid-19 it should be seen as everyone’s responsibility to build collective immunity against flu,” said Hanly.

“The best way to do this is through widespread vaccination. Ireland performs well by EU comparisons, but we still fall short of the target of 75 per cent of people over the age of 65 availing of the vaccine. Making the vaccine free for everyone and improving its accessibility would send a powerful message about its importance to public health.

“Last year, there were over 1.1 million flu vaccines delivered in Ireland, which is up 60 per cent since pharmacies were first permitted to administer the vaccine a decade ago. This shows that increasing the convenience and availability of the vaccine has yielded extremely positive results.”

“Pharmacist vaccination services should now be extended by allowing pharmacists to administer the vaccine outside of pharmacies, for example in nursing homes, community centres or workplaces,” he added.

The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has outlined the need to vaccinate early and in more significant numbers for the upcoming 2020/21 influenza.

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