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Health system 'more resilient' to deal with flu this winter - Henry

The HSE says the health system is resilient enough to handle both flu and the coronavirus this wi...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.43 4 Oct 2021


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Health system 'more resilient' to deal with flu this winter - Henry


Jack Quann
Jack Quann

09.43 4 Oct 2021


Share this article


The HSE says the health system is resilient enough to handle both flu and the coronavirus this winter.

There was not a single lab confirmed case of flu here last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.

But health officials are warning the country will not get away that lightly this year.

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People with weak immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women and children are all being urged to get their free flu jab.

Chief Clinical Officer with the HSE, Dr Colm Henry, told Newstalk Breakfast we are better placed this year.

"None of us would have wished for a winter where we were facing COVID and flu.

"But I think we're in a more resilient position now than we would have hoped cause of all the learnings from the past year and a half.

"We're in a safer position now with regard to COVID because of the extraordinary reach of this vaccination programme, and of the enthusiasm of the Irish people in the way they've embraced the vaccine.

"That's made our hospitals and our healthcare systems a much safer place."

He says investments 'at speed' in capacity around hospital beds have also helped.

"And perhaps more importantly in the long-term, given all the conversation about Sláintecare, into ways we can deliver care that don't necessarily bring people into hospital - particularly for those who are older and those with chronic disease".

On the flu vaccine, he says he hopes numbers will rise.

"We did introduce this vaccine last year, it wasn't taken up in huge numbers.

"It takes a while for new vaccines to get a grip and to capture the imagination, to be embraced by the public.

"So we're hoping for a greater uptake of this vaccine between the age of two and 17.

"Last year, perhaps a little bit disappointing, about 29% of those between two and 14 took the vaccine".

Asked if the vaccines were wasted, he says: "Yes, just did not reach the numbers we would have liked to have reached.

"But on the flipside of that, we saw extraordinary levels of uptake with older people".

And he says there was 71% uptake within the acute hospital sector.

But he is urging anyone eligible for the flu vaccine to get it.

"[There are] three separate groups: the first is those aged over 65 years of age... the second is children aged between two and 17, and the third is those with chronic disease from 17 to to 65".

Health system 'more resilient' to deal with flu this winter - Henry

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Main image: Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer of the HSE, speaking during a COVID-19 briefing at the Department of Health in Dublin. Picture by: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo/Brian Lawless

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