Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee TD, has today met with organisations representing the needs of older people in Ireland, to provide them with the most up to date information and advice on the current influenza outbreak. Older people are especially vulnerable to contracting the strain of ‘flu prevalent in Ireland at the moment.
Minister McEntee thanked each organisation for attending the meeting and said, ‘Caring for our older population is a priority. Keeping our elderly family and friends as healthy and safe as possible during this winter season is vital. We can achieve this by making people aware of the risks associated with this illness, and most importantly, ensuring that they are familiar with the ways in which they can avoid becoming ill’.
The Minister continued, “People aged over-65 are considered to be one of the at-risk groups who are encouraged to get the flu vaccine and it is welcome that uptake rates have improved in these groups. However, my information is that only around half of older people on medical cards have taken up the vaccine. It is important that older people and their families are aware that the particular strain of ‘flu prevalent Ireland at the moment predominantly affects older people and to remind them that it’s never too late to vaccinate. If you are 65 or over or have a long term medical condition you should also ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccine.
“People can access the vaccine easily by contacting their GP or pharmacist, and the HSE provides the flu and pneumococcal vaccine free of charge for all those over-65. The vaccine and consultation are free for those with a Medical Card or GP Visit Card. People who don’t have either a Medical Card or GP Visit Card may be charged a consultation fee.
“No older person wants to end up in hospital if they can avoid it and vaccination is really the best way to ensure they are protected from ‘flu which may exacerbate conditions they already have and then involve a lengthy hospital stay. Even if you have had the vaccine, and you develop symptoms, contact your GP immediately as they may prescribe antiviral medication, which can help keep you out of hospital.”
Notes for Editors
The organisations representing older people who attended the meeting with Minister McEntee included the following:
- Active Retirement Ireland
- Age Action Ireland
- Age and Opportunity
- Care Alliance Ireland
- Irish Senior Citizens Parliament
- The Third Age Foundation
- Irish Farmers’ Association
- Nursing Homes Ireland
- Age Friendly Ireland