Pharmacists advise early vaccination as bad flu season predicted

  • Flu Vaccine just one of the services now provided by community pharmacists
  • Contribution of pharmacists to community celebrated on World Pharmacist Day 

25 September 2017: With experts predicting a particularly bad flu season this year, pharmacists are advising people to get their flu vaccine early. People in at-risk categories are strongly advised to avail of the vaccine and anyone in the at-risk groups who holds a medical card can get the vaccine free of charge at their local pharmacy.

According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), the number of patients vaccinated in community pharmacy continues to increase each year, with the 2016/17 season seeing a total of 78,935 vaccinated across the 762 pharmacies that provided the service. This is an increase of 26% on the previous season.

Flu is a highly infectious illness and the season lasts from October to April. It is estimated that flu is responsible for between 200 and 500 deaths each year in Ireland, mostly among the elderly, although last year was far worse, with three times more deaths than usual. This flu season is also expected to be particularly bad. Australia has reported twice as many cases of the flu this season compared to last year, with twice as many people hospitalised.

IPU President Daragh Connolly explains that, “flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness. It can lead to serious illness, even death. We are strongly advising everyone, but particularly those at-risk, to get the vaccine early this year. The more people who get vaccinated, the less flu can spread around the community.”

The flu vaccine is just one of the many valuable healthcare services now provided by community pharmacists. Pharmacists also offer weight loss support and a smoking cessation service, as well as dispensing emergency hormonal contraception.

Daragh Connolly said, “Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professional and, consequently, there are approximately 1.5 million visits to pharmacies by the public every week. Today (25 September) is World Pharmacists Day, an opportunity to acknowledge the contribution made by pharmacists to their local community.

“The work undertaken by pharmacists delivers significant benefits to both patients and the State, by taking pressure off other parts of the healthcare system, including GPs and hospitals, allowing them to focus on patients with more complex conditions who require medical intervention.”

A nationwide survey conducted by research firm Behaviour & Attitudes in March 2017 found very strong support for expanding the role of the pharmacist as a healthcare provider:96% said they “would be in favour of the pharmacist being able to prescribe some medicines for minor ailments”, while 93% said they would like to see the pharmacy “offering services such as blood pressure or cholesterol testing at the pharmacy for a reasonable cost”.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) said they “sometimes rely on a pharmacist’s advice rather than visiting the GP”, while 61% said they ”think twice before going to the GP now due to its expense”.


Further information: Aoibheann Ní Shúilleabháin, Communications Manager, 087 775 1510

Issued by: Paula Curtin, MKC Communications, 01 703 8612/ 087 410 9910

Editor’s Note 

What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?

A cold is much less severe than the flu. Flu symptoms come on suddenly with fevers and muscle aches, while a cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.

The following provides information on how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu.

Symptoms Seasonal flu Cold
Fever High fever lasts 3-4 days Rare
Headache Prominent Rare
General Aches, Pains Usual; often severe Slight
Fatigue, Weakness Can last up to 2-3 weeks Quite mild
Extreme Exhaustion Early and prominent Never
Stuffy Nose Sometimes Common
Sneezing Sometimes Usual
Sore Throat Sometimes Common
Chest Discomfort, Cough Common; can become severe Mild to moderate; hacking cough


At-risk patients include:

  • Aged 65+
  • Persons with Down syndrome
  • Those with a long-term medical condition such as diabetes or heart or lung disease
  • People whose immune system is impaired due to disease or treatment
  • Cancer patients
  • Persons with a body mass index (BMI) over 40
  • Pregnant women
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • Healthcare workers
  • Carers
  • People with regular close contact with poultry, waterfowl or pigs
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