Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Department of Health
208. To ask the Minister for Health his views on reports of teachers having their 'flu jab cancelled to prioritise other types of front-line workers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37376/20]
The Government has expanded the provision of seasonal influenza vaccination without charge to all of those in the HSE-defined at-risk groups, including healthcare workers, and to all children aged from 2 to 12 years. By providing vaccination to those most at-risk, and those most likely to require hospitalisation if they contract influenza, it is anticipated that the programme will see a reduction in the number of influenza-related hospital admissions, as well as a reduction in the overall spread of influenza in the community. This approach is in line with the advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.
This season, 1.95 million doses of influenza vaccine have been purchased, which is double the amount administered last season. The HSE has procured 1.35 million doses of the Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (QIV) for administration to all persons in an at-risk group, as well as 600,000 doses of the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) for all children aged from 2 to 12 years old inclusive.
As with other persons, teachers who are in an at-risk category, are eligible for vaccination without charge under the influenza vaccination programme. Those teachers not covered by the publicly funded influenza vaccination programme avail of influenza vaccination from GPs and pharmacists on a private basis.
1.3 million of the 1.35 million doses of flu vaccine available this winter have now been distributed to GPs, pharmacists and other vaccination sites since early October. In addition, 420,000 doses of the LAIV for administration to children aged from 2 to 12 have been distributed. Demand for vaccination remains strong at this point and may exceed available supply. It is likely that the full amount procured, 1.35 million doses, will be distributed and administered. Given the situation on the international market, it is not likely that additional supply will be possible. As a consequence, from the fourth round of deliveries which started on 23 October, GPs and pharmacists have been asked that of remaining patients in at-risk groups, priority should be given to the over-65s and healthcare workers with direct patient contact, in line with WHO advice.
Each year a certain amount of vaccine is “held back” to ensure those in at-risk groups receive vaccines. With the unprecedented demand this year it is important that the HSE manage the distribution of the remaining doses in order to target administration to the at-risk groups who need it the most. The distribution of the final 50,000 doses will commence by the end of this month.