06/10/2010

'At Risk Groups' Urged To Get Flu Jab

The Irish health service has today launched it's 'flu vaccination programme and has called on "at risk groups and pregnant women" especially to take up the vaccination.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) today reminded everyone at risk of influenza this winter to "get the vaccine, not the 'flu!" which also protects from swine flu.

According to a HSE spokesman this morning, the vaccine is necessary as the 'flu virus changes each year.

Based on advice from the World Health Organisation (WHO), this year the seasonal flu vaccine contains three common flu virus strains, including the Pandemic H1N1 (swine flu) strain, which is still circulating this year and is expected to be the most common strain this winter. Unlike last year, the swine flu virus strain is included in the seasonal flu vaccine meaning that only one flu vaccination is required.

Dr. Brenda Corcoran from the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, “We predict that the swine flu virus will be the dominant strain of flu virus this winter but there may also be other flu viruses around.

“The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu as it does not contain any live flu virus. We want to ensure that people in the at-risk groups, and pregnant women, get the annual flu vaccine this year so that our most vulnerable groups are kept safe this winter from the three most common strains of flu which this year includes swine flu.”

In Ireland, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has recommended that the following groups of at-risk people need to be vaccinated for seasonal influenza - everyone aged 65 and older, children and adults with long-term illnesses such as asthma, heart problems etc., including those who attend schools or day centres for people with disabilities, as well as health care staff and carers.

In addition, healthy pregnant women and women up to six weeks after giving birth who have not previously received the swine flu vaccine are urged to get the seasonal flu vaccination this year as they are at a higher risk of complications from swine flu. Pregnant women who have a long-term medical condition such as diabetes, heart or lung disease need to get the seasonal flu vaccine, even if they have already had the swine flu vaccine.

Many other countries are also rolling out their 'flu vaccination programmes today. Australia's health service has however, only this week began to go ahead with vaccination of children under five, after some 99 children developed convulsions after receiving the jab.

In April this year, Australia's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, advised all GPs and immunisation providers to stop giving seasonal flu vaccine to children five years and under until the cause of convulsions was established.

"This is a precautionary measure while the matter is being urgently investigated by health experts and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)," Professor Bishop said.

All effective children have since fully recovered and their new approved vaccine is being rolled out.

(DW)

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