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Media reports that Government will implement a more robust fight against seasonal flu in the 2020/21 flu season have been welcomed by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU). However, the IPU says more ambition is needed to prevent our hospitals being overrun with flu this winter.

The union called for planning on flu to start now — it may not hit us for another few months, but to minimise the impact, preparation needs to start immediately, it stated. It is understood that Minister for Health Simon Harris has sought an extension to the flu vaccine programme, but Mr Eoghan Hanly, Vice-President of the Irish Pharmacy Union, called for more to be done: “Providing the vaccine to at-risk groups is an important first step, but why stop there? Ireland’s flu vaccine strategy must be more ambitious. Official advice should recommend that all people over the age of six months get an annual flu vaccine, and it should be free — this is the best way to maximise uptake.

“The plans should also focus on access. Allowing pharmacists to vaccinate has shown that increased access and convenience increases uptake,” he said. “Pharmacists have been safely providing the flu vaccine for a decade but can only do so within their pharmacy. Increasing the locations where this is permitted to residential services and to workplaces would significantly increase uptake and help build a herd immunity. 

“We can’t yet stop the coronavirus, but we can stop the flu.”