The Minister for Health has disclosed to the Dáil that the HSE plans to purchase just 200,000 additional adult flu vaccines for the forthcoming flu season, despite the pressure this could place on our health system over the winter months.
“Last winter the HSE purchased 1.15m Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine and this year it plans to increase its order to just 1.35m doses, along with 600,000 doses of the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine that will be made available to all children aged from 2 to 12 years old,” stated Denis Naughten
“In reality this means there is just an additional 200,000 vaccine doses available for the adult population, or half of all adults, well short of what is needed to protect the population not just from the flu virus but from being confused with the Covid-19 symptoms which could cause absolute chaos within our hospitals this winter.
“We were lucky that when Covid-19 struck last March we were pretty much out of the flu virus season, but that will not be the case if we have another surge in Coronavirus infection this autumn.
“While I welcome the fact that the HSE has ordered 600,000 doses of a nasal drop vaccine, doses which will be made available to all children aged from 2 to 12 years, ordering additional adult doses for just 5% of the population is far short of what is needed to protect the country from the flu this winter.”
Denis Naughten added: “The only way our health service can manage a surge in Covid-19 infection this winter is if we can rule out the possibility that the patient has flu, as the symptoms are so similar. This can only be achieved by a population-wide vaccination programme against the flu virus and the public must be actively encouraged to have the flu jab, and children the flu drops, this winter.
“However, if people go to the effort of protecting themselves, our older people and our health service by availing of the vaccine, the very last thing we need is to have them put on a waiting list due to a lack of the availability of vaccine.
“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of this virus earlier this year we cannot allow a second wave of infection to cause chaos in our hospitals this winter under any circumstances,” concluded Denis Naughten.
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For Written Answer on : 30/07/2020
Question Number(s): 1191 Question Reference(s): 20049/20
Asked by: Denis Naughten T.D.
To ask the Minister for Health the number of flu vaccines that the HSE plans to procure for the forthcoming flu season; his plans to make the vaccine mandatory subject to medical advice for any cohort of the population; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
To mitigate as much as possible the pressure on the health services that would result from a coincidence of the winter flu season and a resurgence of COVID-19, there will be an expanded provision of seasonal influenza vaccine this year. All of those in the at-risk groups aged from 6 months up, including healthcare workers, will be able to access the vaccination without charges. All children aged from 2 to 12 years inclusive will also have access to vaccination without charges.
The HSE has placed orders for approximately 1.35 million doses of the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine for the forthcoming winter. This vaccine will be made available to all persons in an at-risk group aged from 6 months up, other than children aged from 2 to 12 years old inclusive. The HSE has also ordered 600,000 doses of the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine, which is delivered via nasal drops rather than by injection and will be made available to all children aged from 2 to 12 years old inclusive. The quantities of vaccine ordered are expected to be sufficient to meet even an increased level of demand as a result of COVID.
Increasing vaccination rates in general across the country is a health priority, and several options in this area are being explored. The influenza vaccine expansion will be accompanied by a comprehensive communications campaign to encourage the greatest possible take-up. There are no plans at present to make influenza vaccinations mandatory for any cohort of the population.