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HSE Launches a Comprehensive Autumn-Winter Vaccination Programme: Free Flu and COVID-19 Vaccines for Recommended Groups

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has initiated its autumn-winter vaccination programme, commencing with the distribution of free flu and COVID-19 vaccines to eligible groups.

The COVID-19 autumn-winter booster vaccine is being recommended for individuals aged 50 and above, while the flu vaccine is suggested for those aged 65 and older. Additionally, both vaccines are advised for healthcare and care workers, pregnant individuals, and those with long-term health conditions.

These vaccines are accessible through participating general practitioners and pharmacists and can be administered concurrently. Furthermore, vaccination clinics for healthcare and care workers will be hosted in various workplaces nationwide.

HSE vaccination teams will also administer both vaccines to residents of care facilities, including nursing homes, as well as housebound patients.

Dr. Lucy Jessop, HSE National Immunisation Lead and Consultant in Public Health Medicine, emphasised the importance of vaccination this winter due to the anticipated circulation of both flu and COVID-19 viruses. She reassured the public that receiving both vaccines simultaneously is safe.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has recommended the use of the Comirnaty Omicron XBB.1.5 vaccine as the autumn/winter COVID-19 booster in Ireland. This newly approved monovalent vaccine by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is known to provide an enhanced antibody response against specific COVID variants and offers increased protection.

Additionally, the pneumococcal vaccine (PPV23), safeguarding against pneumonia, septicaemia, and meningitis, is available at no cost through participating general practitioners for individuals aged 65 and above. This vaccine can be administered concurrently with the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

Furthermore, the children’s flu vaccine, delivered as a nasal spray, will be accessible through participating general practitioners and pharmacists for children aged two to 12 years, starting on October 9th. An extension of this year’s programme will extend the vaccine’s availability to children in senior infants and all children in primary-age special schools.

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