With high levels of viruses like COVID and influenza expected in Ireland this autumn and winter, the HSE is reminding people to protect themselves through vaccination.
Southern hemisphere countries like Australia and New Zealand experienced a tough winter in terms of viruses this year – and experts believe Ireland will see something similar in the coming months.
The HSE yesterday launched its winter vaccination programme with certain groups eligible for free COVID, influenza and pneumococcal (PPV) jabs.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning HSE National Immunisation Lead Dr Lucy Jessop explained what vaccines are available and where people should go to get them.
She warned that the HSE is expecting a ‘virus-filled autumn and winter’.
“I'm afraid we might be, yes,” she said.
“We do look to Australia and some of our other countries in the southern hemisphere and they did again have quite a bad winter with flu and COVID circulating.
“That's why it's so important eligible people get their vaccines now to make sure that they have that protection on board before the virus is really start circulating in the wintertime.”
She said there are three main vaccines available under the programme.
Dr Jessop said there now a “new and adapted” COVID vaccine available that has been specifically developed to target newer strains of the virus.
She said it was particularly developed to target to XBB 1.5 variant, which was nicknamed the ‘Kraken’ variant; however, it has been shown to offer protection against all the XBB variants.
It also protects against the EG of ‘Eris’ variant and while it remains unclear how effective it will be against the new BA.2.86 or ‘Pirola’ variant, that has yet to land in Ireland.
“The most important thing to note is that it is important to get this new protection because we know that your immunity against COVID goes down over time and so it's important to have that that boost now just before the viruses, probably, are going to increase a lot over the autumn/winter period,” she said.
Where do you get it?
Dr Jessop said there are no plans to reopen the large walk-in vaccine centres seen during the pandemic – with most people able to access the jab through their GP or pharmacist.
You can find a list of participating pharmacists at HSE.ie or by calling HSE Live on (01) 240 8787.
Meanwhile, the HSE is running vaccine clinics for health and care workers all around the country and teams will be visiting people who are housebound or living in long-term care.
Who should get it?
The COVID vaccine is recommended for everyone aged 50 years and older and those who have medical conditions that would put them at risk from COVID.
It is also recommended for pregnant women, health workers and care workers.
It is free for anyone who wishes to get it.
The influenza vaccine is updated every year and is recommended for anyone over the age of 65 and those who are at risk of sever flu – specifically people with heart conditions, lung conditions and those with immune system issues.
It is also recommended for pregnant women and children aged between two and 12-years-old.
It is free to everyone in the recommended groups and some GPs and pharmacists offer it to others in a private capacity.
The pneumococcal (PPV 23) vaccine is aimed at people who are 65 or above and those who have conditions that put them at greater risk of pneumonia and meningitis caused by the pneumococcal bacteria.
It is also recommended for people under 65 whose whose antibody levels are likely to decline rapidly – for instance, people with asplenia, hyposplenism, immunosuppression including HIV infection, chronic renal disease, nephrotic syndrome or renal transplant.
Can I get them all?
Dr Jessop said it is possible to get all three vaccines at once – noting that they will be just as effective, with no increase in the risk of long-term side effects.
You can listen back here: