Community Pharmacy

Flu Vaccine Now Available in Pharmacies Nationwide

The 2018/9 Seasonal Flu Vaccine is now available in pharmacies nationwide. After a particularly severe flu season in 2017/8 pharmacists are advising that getting the flu vaccine early this year, is the key to avoiding infection. All those in at-risk groups who hold a medical card can get the vaccine free of charge at their local pharmacy.

Speaking as the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) launched its annual campaign encouraging people to get a flu vaccine, IPU President Daragh Connolly explained “Influenza (the flu) is a highly-infectious and potentially serious disease. In the Northern Hemisphere the flu season typically lasts from October to April. In 2017 Ireland experienced a particularly severe flu season which led to the hospitalisation of 4,680 people and tragically the death of over 200*.

“The annual seasonal flu vaccine has been shown to be the best protection against flu. The most effective time to get the flu vaccine is before flu begins spreading in your community. After vaccination it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop and for your protection to be maximised. Therefore, early vaccination is highly recommended, particularly for those in at-risk groups.”

Data collated by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has shown that since the flu vaccine has been made available in pharmacies there has been a significant nationwide increase in uptake of the vaccine. According to Mr Connolly, “last year pharmacists provided 115,000 vaccines to patients nationwide, representing 13% of all flu vaccinations. Since pharmacists first started vaccinating in 2011, flu vaccine deliveries have increased overall by 29%. This shows that when pharmacists vaccinate, public awareness increases, and vaccination rates increase through all channels.”

Speaking on World Pharmacists Day, Mr Connolly added that “Pharmacists in other countries can routinely offer a wider vaccination service and this is something that should be allowed in Ireland. This should include vaccination against meningococcal disease, tetanus and hepatitis A and B, as well as travel vaccines.”

Mr Connolly concluded by saying, “With nearly 78 million visits to community pharmacies every year, pharmacists are the most accessed healthcare professional in Ireland. The work undertaken by pharmacists delivers significant benefits to both patients and the State by taking pressure off other parts of the healthcare system, including GPs and hospitals, allowing them to focus on patients with more complex conditions who require greater medical intervention. We believe that allowing pharmacists to practice to full scope will deliver better patient outcomes and are committed to working with Government to implement this”.

What’s the difference between a cold and the flu?

A cold is must less severe than the flu. Flu symptoms come on suddenly with fevers and muscle aches, while a cold usually starts gradually with symptoms of a sore throat and a blocked or runny nose.

The following provides information on how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu.

Symptoms Seasonal flu Cold
Fever High fever lasts 3-4 days Rare
Headache Prominent Rare
General Aches, Pains Usual; often severe Slight
Fatigue, Weakness Can last up to 2-3 weeks Quite mild
Extreme Exhaustion Early and prominent Never
Stuffy Nose Sometimes Common
Sneezing Sometimes Usual
Sore Throat Sometimes Common
Chest Discomfort, Cough Common; can become severe Mild to moderate; hacking cough

 

At-risk patients include:

  • Persons aged 65 years and older;
  • Persons 18-64 with a chronic illness requiring regular follow up, e.g. chronic respiratory disease including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma, chronic heart disease including acute coronary syndrome, chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus, haemoglobinopathies, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological disease including multiple sclerosis, hereditary and degenerative disorders of the central nervous system, etc.;
  • Those who are immunosuppressed due to disease or treatment including those with missing or non-functioning spleens;
  • Persons with cancer;
  • Persons with Down syndrome;
  • Those with morbid obesity, i.e. body mass index over 40;
  • All pregnant women (vaccine can be given at any stage of pregnancy);
  • Healthcare workers;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-stay institutions;
  • Carers; and
  • People with regular contact with pigs, poultry or water fowl.
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