Topic: Health

One month extension for free influenza vaccines

The seasonal influenza immunisation programme will be extended from July 31 to the end of August says Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

The influenza vaccine is free for children under five years who have been hospitalised for a respiratory illness, people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions such as severe asthma.

Also people with Down Syndrome and with cochlear implants are now eligible for the vaccine.

Coleman says, “Ministry of Health surveillance suggests that influenza has not yet peaked this winter.  To help ensure people have the protection they need we are extending the funded vaccination season until August 31.

The A-H3N2 strain, which is covered by the vaccine, appears to be the predominant type – this strain affects the elderly and very young more severely than other strains.”

For those not eligible for the free vaccine, they can purchase it from general practices and many pharmacies across the country.

“Although the vaccine was delayed worldwide by a few weeks, the health sector has quickly caught up with previous years’ distribution,” says Dr Coleman.

“To date, almost 1.19 million flu vaccines have been distributed across the country, protecting over a quarter of our population.”