Here's who should get the flu vaccine, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union

The elderly and other at-risk groups are being urged to get vaccinated early against the flu this year.

It follows a severe flu season last winter when more than 4,500 people needed hospital care and over 200 patients died.

Pharmacists are reminding the public that they can now offer the flu jab, which is free to many medical card holders.

Up to 115,000 vaccines were administered by pharmacists last year, and President of The Irish Pharmacy Union, Daragh Connolly, outlined the vulnerable groups that should be getting vaccinated.

He said: "The people who should be considering this are older people, people who are diabetics, people who have got cancer, people with Down Syndrome, obese people, healthcare workers.

"We also have a category of people who are carers, they are people who themselves may not fit into any of those categories but people who then may come into contact with people in those categories and may act as a vector, somebody who might spread the flu even though they may not feel that they have it themselves.

“Influenza is a highly-infectious and potentially serious disease. In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season typically lasts from October to April."

    At-risk patients include:

  • Persons aged 65 years and older;
  • Persons 18-64 with a chronic illness requiring regular follow up, e.g. chronic respiratory disease including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma, chronic heart disease including acute coronary syndrome, chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, haemoglobinopathies, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system, etc.;
  • Those who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment including those with missing or non-functioning spleens;
  • Persons with cancer;
  • Persons with Down syndrome;
  • Those with morbid obesity, i.e. body mass index over 40;
  • All pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy);
  • Healthcare workers;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-stay institutions;
  • Carers;
  • People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl.

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