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Seasonal flu vaccination programme 2010/2011

Friday, 1 October 2010

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey has today launched the Department of Health’s free seasonal flu vaccination programme.

Seasonal flu vaccine protects against the three most common types of flu each year. This year for the first time it will include protection against swine flu. Stocks of the seasonal flu vaccine are now in place in Northern Ireland and ready to be administered to "at risk" groups. The programme runs from October to December.

In highlighting the importance of getting the seasonal flu vaccine, the Minister said: “Seasonal flu can be a serious illness, particularly for those in the ‘at risk’ groups. It is essential for people to receive the latest vaccine and to receive it well in advance of any outbreak.

“The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has examined all the scientific evidence and recommended which groups should receive seasonal flu vaccine and also identified a small number of people who should catch up on the swine flu vaccine if they haven’t already had it. Your GP, practice nurse or midwife is the best person to give advice about the most appropriate vaccine for you.

“I would encourage everyone who receives an invitation from their GP to take the vaccine and protect themselves against the flu.”

People in 'at-risk' groups include:

  • Those over 65 years old – even if they feel fit and healthy
  • 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, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or hereditary and degenerative diseases of the central nervous system or muscles.

Even if someone in these groups had swine flu vaccine last year, they should still have seasonal flu vaccine this year to make sure that they are fully protected against all three common types of flu.

Pregnant women

This year all pregnant women should be protected against the H1N1 swine flu virus, as there is good evidence that pregnant women are at increased risk from this particular flu virus.

Pregnant women in any of the ‘at risk’ groups should receive seasonal flu vaccine from their GP.

Other pregnant women without ‘at risk’ medical conditions should receive seasonal flu vaccine at their antenatal clinic, unless they have already had swine flu vaccine.

Northern Ireland’s flu immunisation programme is now in its eleventh year. In 2009/2010, 77% of over-65s and 80% of under-65 in ‘at risk’ groups protected themselves against flu by receiving the vaccine. These figures exceed the targets set for Northern Ireland and represent a significant public health achievement.

Notes to editors:

1. There are no concerns regarding the supply of seasonal flu vaccine for Northern Ireland. All stocks have been purchased centrally from three different suppliers and have been delivered to Northern Ireland in mid-September. GP's will be inviting patients for vaccination in staged groups.

2. Patients should expect to receive a letter or phone call from their GP surgery. If they have any queries they should contact their GP directly.

3. Based on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) a small number of people may be offered the H1N1 swine flu vaccine in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine. These include some children under five and some immunosuppressed people.

4. The seasonal flu vaccination programme has been running very successfully in Northern Ireland and has sustained very high levels of immunisation coverage in our ‘at risk’ population.

5. For further information, please contact DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0579. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.