With Covid-19 cases rising, every little bit helps when it comes to protecting ourselves and each other. One of the ways we can do that this winter is by getting the flu vaccine. Here we go through it, who can and should get it – and anything else you need to know. Remember to keep safe, socially distance, eat well (be sure to stock up on plenty of bone broth!) enquire about the vaccine if you’re unsure.
According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, ‘influenza season’ starts in October and continues right through to May, though cases of people being hospitalised in Ireland tend to peak as we hit November through to January/February.
One of the first things recommended is to get the flu vaccine, available from the end of September for at-risk groups and in October for children.
Each year the seasonal flu vaccine protects against four common influenza virus strains. The flu virus changes each year and therefore a new flu vaccine must be given each year. The seasonal flu vaccine helps a person’s immune system to produce antibodies to the flu virus. It helps your immune system to produce antibodies to fight the influenza virus. If you have been vaccinated and you come into contact with the virus, these antibodies will attack it and stop you from getting sick. The flu vaccine starts to work within two weeks.
Who should get the flu vaccination?
While everyone should consider getting the vaccinations this year with COVID-19, it’s especially important for specific at-risk groups, including those over 65, people with impaired immune systems, those with a BMI over 40, pregnant women, healthcare workers and carers, cancer patients and those with disabilities. The HSE strongly urges the following at-risk groups get vaccinated, especially if you are:
- are 65 years of age and over
- are pregnant
- have a long-term medical condition – for example, a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease or cancer
- have a weak immune system – for example, if you have diabetes or you’re having chemotherapy
- live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility
- are obese and have a body mass index (BMI) of over 40
- are a child with a moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disorder such as cerebral palsy
- were born with Down syndrome
The Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, has confirmed that an expanded flu vaccination programme will roll out this autumn.
Flu season lasts in Ireland from October to April and each season, an average of 200-500 people die from the illness and thousands are hospitalised.
The aim of expanding the flu vaccine programme this year, according to government, is to reduce the spread of flu and flu-related hospital admissions at a time when the health service is already under major strain as a result of COVID-19.
“Limiting that impact and protecting the most vulnerable people in our society means that everyone who can get the flu vaccine should get it, and we are starting by making it accessible without charge to all in the at-risk groups,” he said.
Where can I get it?
All people in at-risk groups, which includes those over the age of 65, pregnant women and healthcare workers, will be able to access the vaccination without charge.
For the first time, children aged between two and 12 will also be able to access it without charge. The vaccine will be administered to children via nasal drops rather than an injection.
For all other customers over 18 years outside of the categories above, winter flu vaccination costs around €20.