Pharmacists urge parents to sign children up for free flu vaccine

Pharmacists urge parents to sign children up for free flu vaccine

The HSE recently launched its winter flu campaign. All children aged 2 to 17 years are urged to get the free nasal spray flu vaccine this winter. Participating GPs and pharmacies give the nasal vaccine by spraying it once into each of the child’s nostrils. Pictured at the launch is Zoe Lonergan, 10, from Firhouse, Dublin. Zoe has juvenile arthritis and will receive the vaccination for the immunocompromised. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland

WITH the return of the winter flu virus expected in the weeks ahead, the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) is encouraging parents to sign their children up for a free nasal flu vaccine as soon as possible.

More than 1,000 pharmacies nationwide are offering flu vaccines which are free for all children aged between 2 and 17 and the IPU has said that early vaccination provides the most effective protection for children and the wider community.

“Children are twice as likely as adults to get the flu and are also more likely than adults to get severe complications of flu,” IPU president and community pharmacist, Dermot Twomey said. “Flu vaccination is quick and easy for children and because it is administered via a nasal spray, there are no scary needles or pain involved.

“As we face into a winter with the dual threats of flu and Covid-19, it is important to do everything we can to minimise infection rates in our communities. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine but they can get protection from the flu, and it is important that as many as possible do so.”

He described the uptake of the free children’s flu vaccine last year as ‘disappointing’.

“This year, with vaccines front and centre of everyone’s mind, we are hoping for a much stronger uptake,” he said. 

“Thankfully, early indications suggest that more parents are coming forward to get their children vaccinated this year. The influenza virus changes slightly each year and there is no guarantee that a flu vaccine that your child got in previous years will offer them protection from the strains of the virus that will hit Ireland during this year’s flu season.

"Children who are sick with flu miss days in crèche, childcare and school, and they also miss out on hobbies and sports. They may also require a PCR test to rule out Covid-19, which many children find unpleasant. A flu vaccine ensures that a child is protected from a serious illness.”

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