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New research published recently by Pfizer shows an overall positive public attitude to vaccination in Ireland, but varying levels of concern for different respiratory diseases. The research was launched as Irish and European experts on immunisation and respiratory disease came together to examine the potential impact that diseases, such as Covid-19, seasonal flu, and pneumonia may have on health systems and how routine adult vaccination is a key instrument in protecting lives and reducing the burden on health services.

The event, titled ‘Adult Vaccination and Healthy Ageing – An Opportunity to Build a Strong Future for Ireland,’ saw a wide group of stakeholders gather to discuss the societal and economic benefits of a healthy ageing population.

The research, conducted by Behaviour and Attitudes, confirms a high uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Ireland, with 94 per cent of respondents confirming they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to date. Overall attitude towards vaccination is positive, with only 24 per cent stating that they will not get any vaccination (Covid-19, seasonal flu, or pneumococcal) this winter. However, only 22 per cent of people surveyed plan to get a pneumococcal vaccination, despite the high numbers of pneumonia-related hospitalisations seen in Ireland each year.

Speaking at the event, Dr Ronan Glynn, Partner, Health Sector Lead, EY Ireland, said: “Immunisation is one of the most effective public health interventions, preventing up to five million deaths globally each year. The Covid-19 pandemic saw people engage with immunisation in new and different ways and we have seen fantastic levels of uptake of vaccines against Covid-19 in Ireland. We now have an opportunity to build on this momentum, to encourage and facilitate immunisation against preventable diseases, not alone in children, but through adolescence and in priority adult groups including pregnant women, healthcare workers, and older adults.”

For those who do not plan to get a pneumococcal or seasonal flu vaccination this winter, the main reason cited (39 percent) by respondents was that they don’t feel they are at risk from either disease. However, multiple groups of people are at increased risk from these vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly the elderly, those with a weakened immune system, and those with chronic conditions, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, or a heart, kidney or liver condition.

The research also found that respiratory disease is top-of-mind for the public as we move into winter. When asked about their attitudes to vaccination and respiratory diseases in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than half (54 per cent) of respondents said they were more concerned about respiratory diseases, 79 per cent said they want to protect themselves from disease as they age, and 58 per cent said they would be open to receiving vaccinations for other diseases if available.

Ms Clare Fitzell, Head of Professional Services, Irish Pharmacy Union, added: “Seasonal flu and pneumonia are serious threats to our vulnerable communities and a strain on the health service year-on-year. Community pharmacists are well placed to offer vaccine protection in their local communities throughout the winter months to help reduce this burden. To date, community pharmacists have administered over 1.1 million Covid-19 vaccinations, and it is wonderful to see in this research that people have found the convenience of that service helpful”.