THE HSE is urging Limerick people, particularly those in "at-risk" groups, to get vaccinated against the flu this winter.
Healthcare staff across the Mid-West community, both in primary and secondary care, have teamed up to promote this year's vaccination programme.
Vaccination is free to those in the at-risk group, comprising everyone aged 65 and older, pregnant women, babies six months and older with long-term illness, residents in nursing homes and other long-stay facilities, people with disabilities, healthcare workers, carers of those in at-risk categories, and people in regular contact with pigs, poultry and water fowl.
Specialist in public health in Limerick, Dr Rose Fitzgerald, said that the seasonal flu can be "very serious" for young, healthy people and not just those in at-risk groups.
“Every year, we see people become seriously unwell from flu and every year, unfortunately, we see people die from flu.”
This year, the HSE is providing the quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects people from four strains of the flu, as advised by the World Health Organisation. Last year, many people had to purchase the quadrivalent vaccine from GPs and pharmacies, as the HSE was only offering a trivalent innoculation, which protected against just three strains.
“This year's seasonal flu vaccine is a quadrivalent vaccine which protects against the four strains of flu virus recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the strains most likely to be circulating in the northern hemisphere this season. I would urge all the at-risk groups, including healthcare staff, to get the flu vaccine,” Dr Fitzgerald said.
She was speaking as UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid West Community Healthcare this Thursday joined forces to launch their own internal flu campaigns aimed at vaccinating thousands of healthcare workers in community, primary, mental health and acute hospital settings across Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary.
The staff vaccination drive coincides with the launch the HSE’s national flu campaign. All the at-risk groups are encouraged to get the vaccine, which available free of charge from their GP or pharmacist.
Flu vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers to protect them getting flu and to reduce the risk of them transmitting it to their family, colleagues and patients. Healthcare workers are in contact with elderly and at risk patients whose immunity may be suppressed and they rely on the immunity of those who care for them to keep them safe from flu
Chief Officer of HSE Mid West Community Healthcare Maria Bridgeman commented: “Flu can be very serious, I think it is imperative everybody gets the flu vaccination, not only to protect themselves but to protect their family, colleagues and patients. Our staff in particular visit many patients from newborn babies to the elderly within the community and it is so important we protect the people we look after”
Margaret Quigley, Director of Midwifery, UL Hospitals Group, said: “The vaccine is the best means we have of fighting flu and of reducing infection and associated illnesses and hospitalisations. By doing our best to stay well, we reduce the risk to more vulnerable members of our community, including the pregnant women. Flu vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy and also protects the baby. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus and all those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure that they are protected.”