As October marks the start of flu season, people in at-risk groups, cancer patients, their families and healthcare professionals are being urged to get the seasonal flu vaccine.
The call comes as figures show vaccine uptake rates in people aged 65 and over increased in Ireland last year.
The HSE’s flu vaccine lead Dr John Cuddihy, said “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.”
The Irish Cancer Society is encouraging cancer patients across Donegal and their immediate household members to get vaccinated against the flu.
The Society says that people who are undergoing or have undergone chemotherapy and other cancer treatments are at increased risk of contracting influenza because of their weakened immune systems.
“The flu vaccine is a lifesaver for people with long-term health conditions, including cancer,” said Dr Chantal Migone, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at the NIO.
“Healthy people who live with, or come into contact with, at-risk individuals like people with cancer can pass the virus onto them even before they develop the symptoms of flu,” added Dr Migone. It’s important that people who have cancer, as well as their household contacts get the flu vaccine every year.
The HSE says that this year’s seasonal flu vaccine gives broader protection against flu than the vaccine used in previous years, because it protects against four of the common flu virus strains expected to be circulating this year based on advice from the World Health Organization. The flu vaccine used in previous seasons protected against three strains of the flu virus.
The HSE’s website – www.immunisation.ie – provides details on the annual flu vaccination, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine for over 65s and people in medical at-risk groups and Whooping Cough vaccine for pregnant women, along with answers to any questions people may have about flu.