The flu vaccine will be free for all children aged 2-12 this winter season, along with all other groups considered at risk by the HSE.
People over the age of 70 already have access to the annual flu vaccine free of charge, but this is being extended in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking about the move, Health Minister Simon Harris said that a second wave of Covid-19 during the coming flu season could pose a “significant challenge” to delivering healthcare services this 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.”
The vaccine will also be available for free to anyone between the ages of 6 months and 69 years old who fall into a group defined as “at-risk” by the HSE.
The groups defined as most at risk from influenza include:
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:
- chronic heart disease, including acute coronary syndrome
- chronic liver disease
- chronic renal failure
- cancer patients
- chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system
- diabetes mellitus
- down syndrome
- morbid obesity – that is, body mass index of 40 or over
- immunosuppression due to disease or treatment, including asplenia or splenic dysfunction
- cancer patients
Children aged 6 months and older:
- with moderate to severe neurodevelopmental disorders such as cerebral palsy and intellectual disability
- 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