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Seasonal flu vaccine programme

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Northern Ireland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, has today launched the Department of Health’s free seasonal flu vaccination programme.

Stocks of the seasonal flu vaccine are now in place in Northern Ireland and ready to be administered to 'at risk' groups.

The seasonal flu campaign is aimed at all those in vulnerable groups to ensure they take advantage of the vaccine on offer and so that they are better prepared to fight off infection. The campaign runs from October to December.

A separate swine flu vaccination campaign is also due to be launched later in the autumn; details will follow in due course. The seasonal flu vaccine will only protect against seasonal flu.

In highlighting how important it is for people to receive the seasonal flu vaccine ahead of the virus arriving in Northern Ireland over the winter, Dr McBride said: "Seasonal flu can be a serious illness affecting all of the vulnerable groups. It is essential for people to receive the latest vaccine and to receive it well in advance of any outbreak.

"While there has been much press attention focused on swine flu, it is important that those individuals in the seasonal flu ‘at risk’ groups receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Separate arrangements will be put in place for the swine flu vaccination programme.

"I encourage everyone who receives an invitation from their GP in relation to seasonal flu to be immunised, to respond positively to it."

Northern Ireland’s flu immunisation programme is now in its tenth year. 2008/2009 saw a take up rate of 76.8% of over-65s and 74% of those under-65 in ‘at risk’ groups. These figures exceed the targets set for Northern Ireland and represent a significant public health achievement.

People in 'at-risk' groups include:

  • those over 65 years old – even if they feel fit and healthy and children and adults who suffer from any of the following:
  • chronic heart conditions;
  • chronic chest conditions eg asthma;
  • chronic liver disease;
  • chronic kidney disease;
  • diabetes;
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment such as steroids or cancer therapy;
  • any other serious medical condition;
  • children who have previously been admitted to hospital with a chest infection;
  • carers (who are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person) and people who live in a residential or nursing home;
  • people with certain neurological conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis and inherited diseases of the nervous system. (Not all patients in these categories will require immunisation and GPs will determine which patients are most likely to benefit.)

Notes to editors:

1. There is no issue regarding the supply of seasonal flu vaccinations for Northern Ireland as all stocks have been purchased centrally from four different suppliers. GP's will be inviting patients in staged groups according to their level of risk.

2. The seasonal flu campaign is separate from the swine flu campaign.

3. Those considered ‘at risk’ for both seasonal and swine flu should receive both vaccines when invited by their GP but, note this may not necessarily be at the same time.

4. Patients should expect to receive a letter of invitation from their GP surgery. If they have any queries they should contact their GP directly.

5. This programme has been running very successfully in Northern Ireland and has sustained very high levels of immunisation coverage in our ‘at risk’ population.

6. For further information, please contact the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 2841. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.