The HSE should consider giving the flu vaccine to everyone free of charge to minimise pressure on our health service and prevent respiratory-type illnesses, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Senator Martin Conway, Fine Gael’s Health spokesperson in the Seanad, also called for a scaled-up information campaign on the benefits of the flu vaccine which is more important than ever as we deal with the impact of Covid-19 and rising cases in the coming weeks.
Senator Conway said: “In recent days, we heard the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, express concern about the high incidence of Covid-19 across the country and across all age groups, saying that we can get on top of this latest surge by getting vaccinated and following basic public health measures.
“He also said it is not too late for people who are currently unvaccinated against Covid-19 to come forward and get themselves jabbed as infection rates and hospitalisations remain high in this cohort.
“Some doctors have said it is difficult to differentiate between respiratory type illnesses such as Covid and flu, as symptoms are similar, with flu cases likely to rise during this current season with more people out and about.
“That is why I believe it is so essential the flu vaccine be made available to everyone free of charge.
“We should also be running the same campaign as we have been running for Covid to encourage people to take the flu vaccine and I emphasised this point to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly in the Seanad.
“The flu vaccine has the potential to protect those most at risk of serious illness and hospitalisations, so it makes perfect sense to provide the flu vaccine free of charge at a time when our hospitals are under pressure as a result of Covid-19 admissions.
“It seems to me that charging people for the flu vaccine is penny wise and pound foolish, as the benefits of providing the flu vaccine freely far outweigh the cost implication.
“We have achieved enormous success in the vaccination programme, with 92% of the population fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and we should use that as a template going forward with similar public information campaigns for other state vaccination programmes.
“Everyone should also practice all precautionary measures as has been repeatedly advised in the coming days and weeks,” Senator Conway concluded.