Minister for Health announces influenza vaccines to be made available without charge to all children aged 2-12 and all risk groups

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today announced his intention extend the influenza vaccine to children without charge.

Minister Harris confirmed all of those in the HSE-defined at-risk groups, aged from 6 months to 69 years inclusive will also be available to access the vaccine without charge. All persons aged over 70 already have access without charges.

The vaccination will be available to all children aged from 2 to 12 years inclusive.

Work is underway to plan and give effect to this policy and further information will be provided when arrangements have been finalised.

Speaking today, Minister Harris said: “A resurgence of COVID-19 during the coming flu season could present a significant challenge to the delivery of healthcare services in the coming winter.

“That is why officials from my Department have been working closely with the HSE to put in place an expansion of the seasonal influenza vaccination programme for winter 2020/21.

“Flu is a potentially fatal illness and I want to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities are protected.

“When the time comes, I will be strongly encouraging those from at-risk groups to get vaccinated to protect themselves and, in the case of health care workers, those they care for, from exposure to the flu.

“The flu vaccine is the only defence against the flu and is the best option for vulnerable people against the life-threatening complications of flu”.

Background information

HSE-definded Influenza at-risk groups

Vaccination is strongly recommended for:

  • Persons aged 65 and over
  • Pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy)
  • Adults and children aged 6 months and older with a long-term health condition such as:
    o         Chronic heart disease, including acute coronary syndrome
    o         Chronic liver disease
    o         Chronic renal failure
    o         Cancer patients
    o         Chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
    o         Chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system
    o         Diabetes mellitus
    o         Down syndrome
    o         Haemoglobinopathies
    o         Morbid obesity i.e. body mass index of 40 or over
    o         Immunosuppression due to disease or treatment, including asplenia or splenic dysfunction and
    o        cancer patients
  • Children aged 6 months and older:
    o         with moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy and intellectual disability
    o         on long-term aspirin therapy (because of the risk of Reyes syndrome)
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long stay institutions
  • Healthcare workers including all GP practice staff
  • Carers and household contacts of people with increased medical risk
  • People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl

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