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HSE admits staff hit in flu jab error

RED-FACED HSE chiefs have admitted that the health authority gave the wrong dosage of flu vaccine to hundreds of its own staff.

The embarrassing error was uncovered only days after reports that almost 500 members of the public also received the wrong dosage when they went to their local pharmacies to be vaccinated against the flu.

Hibernian Healthcare, the company that trained pharmacists to deliver the vaccines, also vaccinated 850 staff at 11 HSE areas in the Dublin and Mid-Leinster region.

Health Minister James Reilly, when asked if the HSE would bear the cost of the revaccination, said the company made the mistake and it should bear the cost.

Flu vaccination for frontline health workers is deemed to be particularly important as they come into contact with people who are ill on a regular basis.

The vaccination problems first emerged when it was revealed at least 489 adults got child dosage levels of the flu vaccine in various pharmacies across the country.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), which regulates pharmacists, said 75 pharmacists out of the 835 who had been contacted had been found to have given the child's dose.

Error

The PSI said the misinterpretation was due to an error in the training they received at Hibernian Healthcare prior to pharmacists being allowed to give the flu vaccine. All of the patients affected are now being recalled for another booster jab but doctors said there was no risk in people getting a second vaccine.

The pharmacists have been giving the flu vaccine to adult private patients and medical-card holders over 65 years of age since last month.

The error came to light when one pharmacist queried why he was left with so much vaccine in the syringe.

The report said all the pharmacists were identifiable and there would be one-to-one follow-ups with them.

All the pharmacists keep records of each of the patients given the vaccine, which will allow them to be be contacted and recalled.

The flu vaccine normally works in just six in every 10 people who get the jab but it is seen as an important protection for at-risk groups, including people with long-term illness and the elderly.

aokeeffe@herald.ie