IPU

Ireland Flu Fight should start now advise pharmacists

1 May 2020: Ireland needs to devise and deploy a robust plan to combat flu and prevent it from overwhelming the health system next season. This call was issued by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), which says that the time for planning is now and that a central pillar should be making the seasonal flu vaccine available to everyone for free this autumn.

Speaking about the importance of planning for seasonal flu, IPU Vice-President and community pharmacist Eoghan Hanly said, “As a society we have all learned a lot about epidemiology and health over the past few weeks. Previously alien concepts such as ‘social distancing’, ‘community transmission’ and ‘herd immunity’ are now well understood. We must now seize the opportunity presented by these greater levels of public understanding and step up the fight against the perennial problem of seasonal flu.

“The flu season which just ended led to the hospitalisation of over 4,000 people in Ireland. Next year we must do everything in our power to reduce the impact of flu to preserve capacity in our health system, particularly as the uncertainty surrounding the impact of COVID-19 remains. To achieve this is it vital that the planning starts now. The complex process of procuring adequate national stocks of seasonal flu vaccines will shortly begin and our public health officials must show ambition in this regard.”

The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, has outlined the need to vaccinate early and in more significant numbers for the upcoming 2020/21 influenza. Pharmacists will have a key role in delivering on this.

The IPU has issued the following recommendations to fight the 2020/21 Flu:

  1. Free Flu Vaccine should be made available to everyone from 6 months old;
  2. Increase the efficiencies of the system by allowing pharmacists administer flu vaccines outside of the pharmacy setting in nursing homes and workplaces; and
  3. A public information campaign should raise awareness about the availability and importance of children receiving the flu vaccine.

Speaking about the recommendations Mr Hanly said, “As the world waits with hope for a vaccine against COVID-19 it should be seen as everyone’s responsibility to build collective immunity against flu. The best way to do this is through widespread vaccination. Ireland performs well by EU comparisons but we still fall short of the target of 75% of people over the age of 65 availing of the vaccine. Making the vaccine free for everyone and improving its accessibility would send a powerful message about its importance to public health.”

“Last year there were over 1.1 million flu vaccines delivered in Ireland, which is up 60% since pharmacies were first permitted to administer the vaccine a decade ago. This shows that increasing the convenience and availability of the vaccine has yielded extremely positive results. Pharmacist vaccination services should now be extended by allowing pharmacists to administer the vaccine outside of pharmacies, for example in nursing homes, community centres or workplaces.”

Mr Hanly concluded by reiterating the importance of fighting flu proactively: “Every year flu is cited as the reason for the annual challenges with our health system. We can and should do much more to prevent this. We can’t yet stop the coronavirus, but we can stop the flu.”

ENDS

For further information contact:

Siobhán Kane, Press and Communications Manager, 087 775 1510