Pharmacists urge at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine now

25 October 2017: With renewed public debate and focus on the unfolding flu season, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is advising people, particularly those in at-risk categories, to avail of the flu vaccine and reminding people in such groups who hold a medical card that they can get the vaccine free of charge at their local pharmacy.

According to data collated by the IPU, the number of patients vaccinated in community pharmacies continues to increase each year, with the previous season (2016/17) recording a total of 78,935 persons vaccinated across the 762 pharmacies which provided the service. This was 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, 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 already reported twice as many cases of the flu this season compared to last year, and 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. The more people who get vaccinated, the less flu can spread around the community.”


Further information: Jim Curran, Director of Communications & Strategy, 086 264 0469

Issued by: Stephen O’Byrnes, MKC Communications, 087 814 8720


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; and
  • People with regular close contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs.
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