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Healthcare workers urged to get immunised against ‘dual threat’ of flu in COVID environment

ULHG CHO Staff Flu Vaccine
Pictured at Limerick Racecourse on Friday morning, October 8th, to launch the 2021-22 UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare Staff Flu Vaccination Campaign were (from left): Anne Ryan, Head of Service, Health & Wellbeing, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare; Laura Ryan, UL Hospitals Group, Clinical Nurse Manager 2, Mid-West Vaccination Centre; Laura Tobin, UL Hospitals Group, Operations Manager, Mid-West Vaccination Centres; Margaret O'Sullivan, Flu Lead, Health & Wellbeing Services, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare; Dr Ann Hogan, Principal Medical Officer, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare; and Suzanne Dunne, Head of Strategy, UL Hospitals Group.

OCTOBER 8th 2021 | UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare have launched their 2021-2022 Staff Flu Vaccination Campaign, emphasising the continued importance of immunisation against flu in the COVID-19 era, as well as helping UNICEF to fight polio in the developing world.

Polio is a highly infectious, crippling and potentially fatal disease, particularly for children under the age of 5, and it can be avoided with a vaccine. This year, for every healthcare worker in ULHG and Community Healthcare who gets the Flu Vaccine, we will ensure 3 children each receive the required 4 doses of vaccines to ensure they are fully immunised against polio.

As we face into another Winter living with COVID-19 we hope that our call on the healthcare workers of the Mid-West to protect themselves against flu is as successful for UNICEF’S efforts against polio as it was last year for the organisation’s measles immunisation programme.

Our regional 2020-21 Staff Flu Vaccination campaign realised 30,000 measles vaccine doses for UNICEF. Following the significant increase in flu vaccination uptake among healthcare workers last year, UL Hospitals Group and HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare are setting our sights on the HSE’s national target of 75% influenza immunisation among healthcare workers, and urge all our staff to register today.

This year’s Flu Vaccination Clinics are running in the Mid-West COVID-19 Vaccination Centres in Limerick, Ennis and Nenagh, along with a number of pop-up clinics that will be organised in our hospital sites.

We are all calling on healthcare workers in the Mid-West to get the flu vaccine, in view of the potentially devastating impact of dual influenza and COVID-19 infection on people with chronic health conditions and older people, and the heavy burden that a surge in such illnesses would place upon the health service.

Anne Ryan, Head of Service, Health & Wellbeing, HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare said: “We’re encouraging all HSE Mid-West Community Healthcare staff to get the flu vaccine to protect themselves and the people they care for in their jobs and their families. This is particularly important as we continue to work in a community where COVID-19 prevalence is relatively high. We’re delighted to be working together with UL Hospitals Group for the benefit of the UNICEF polio vaccination campaign, and encourage all healthcare workers to get vaccinated for the benefit of themselves, their own communities, and for children in the developing world.”

Suzanne Dunne, Head of Strategy, UL Hospitals Group, urged all staff in UL Hospitals Group to embrace the 2021-22 vaccination campaign as enthusiastically as they had done last year: “This Winter it is so important to get vaccinated in order to build a robust immune defence in our hospitals and communities against the threat of dual COVID/influenza infection. If all our staff get their flu vaccine, collectively we will ensure that up to 19,000 vulnerable children are fully vaccinated against polio in the developing world. So get vaccinated, not just for you, your patients and your family, but also to make an impact for some of the most vulnerable groups in the international community.”

Dr Rose Fitzgerald, Specialist in Public Health Medicine at Public Health Mid-West, supported the call for healthcare workers to get vaccinated against flu: “Flu is a highly infectious illness that affects all age groups and may result in serious disease with poor outcomes for our most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and those with weak immune systems. Although flu did not circulate widely in the Mid-West last year, it is possible we could have a severe flu season in the coming months, as witnessed in recent years before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why it is crucial that those in risk groups get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them. For those for whom an additional dose of COVID vaccine is recommended it is safe to get both flu and COVID vaccines either at the same time or at any interval between them."

Dr Fitzgerald added: “As COVID-19 restrictions ease at the end of this month, we expect a considerable increase in social activity with reduced mask-wearing and less social distancing in many indoor settings. Additionally, because we did not experience the flu last year, it is possible that the population may have less immunity against flu this coming season. This is something we may have to be more conscious of. The flu vaccine is safe, and effective in reducing the risk of serious infection. We ask that you be extra vigilant of misinformation and disinformation on social media, and follow trusted sources, such as www.hse.ie, if you wish to learn more about the flu and the available vaccines this season.”