Get flu jab to help cut 1,000 deaths a year - Varadkar
Health Minister Leo Varadkar rolled up his sleeves yesterday and presented his arm to a doctor for a flu jab.
Mr Varadkar then urged people in all the at-risk groups to get vaccinated against influenza, warning that it causes severe illness and up to 1,000 deaths in Ireland every year.
Launching the annual seasonal flu vaccination campaign, Mr Varadkar particularly appealed to those over 65, healthcare workers and pregnant women to get their jab.
"This year I particularly want to remind health care professionals of their duty to protect themselves and their patients by getting immunised," he said.
"I know we can all do a much better job to get a much better uptake among the people who deal with our vulnerable patients every day."
Dr Brenda Corcoran, head of the HSE's National Immunisation Office, said: "The flu vaccine is the best defence against flu, yet every year many people in the at-risk groups fail to get vaccinated.
"Flu is infectious and can cause serious illnesses, especially for older people, those who have a chronic illness, those with weakened immune systems and pregnant women."
Dr Corcoran also stressed that the vaccine "cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus".
"All those at risk should get vaccinated as soon as possible this year to make sure they are protected," she added.
Last year, just over 59pc of those over 65 and who hold a medical card or a GP visit card received the vaccine during the flu season.
This was an improvement on the previous two seasons when the rate was just under 57pc.
The HSE pointed out, however, that it is still less that the World Health Organisation (WHO) target of 75pc.
Dr Corcoran said that flu was different from the common cold and symptoms usually developed over a matter of a few hours.
They include a high temperature, sore muscles, dry cough, headache and sore throat.
"Flu is spread by coughing and sneezing, so people should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue," said Dr Corcoran.
"They should also wash their hands with soap and water as soon as possible to help prevent the spread of flu.
"Anyone who gets flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter flu remedies to ease symptoms.
"People in high-risk categories should contact their GP if they develop flu symptoms."
This year's seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three common flu virus strains expected to be circulating, based on advice from the WHO.
In addition to seasonal flu vaccination, some people in the at-risk groups might also need pneumococcal vaccine which is available from GPs.
"Pneumococcal vaccine is not required every year - most people only need to get it once," said an HSE spokesperson.
"The HSE provides the flu and pneumococcal vaccine free for those in the at-risk groups."