Today, Minister Simon Harris launched the annual ‘Be Winter Ready” Campaign. The ‘Be Winter Ready’ campaign is a great example of how Government departments and state agencies can work together for the good of everyone in Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Harris said:
“I am pleased to present the latest element of ‘Be Winter Ready’ with the launch of this leaflet with advice for older people and on influenza vaccination. This complements the HSEs influenza immunisation and ‘Under the Weather’ campaigns which were launched earlier this month.”
“I am also pleased to see the revised ‘Be Winter Ready’ booklet which includes additional advice for older people and people with disabilities on keeping well and warm, staying safe in cold and icy conditions and on preventing fall.”
Minister Harris went on to say:
“Irish people have a great sense of community and look out for their family and neighbours and that is particularly important at this time of year. I would ask everyone to make sure to call on older or disabled relatives and neighbours to ask how we can best help them if required and offer assistance in severe weather.”
“One of the priorities for this winter is to increase uptake of the influenza vaccine in ‘at risk’ groups and in health care workers. This includes those aged 65 years and older, people with chronic illness requiring regular medical follow-up, those with lower immunity due to disease or treatment, pregnant women, and residents of nursing homes, and other long stay facilities.”
The influenza vaccine is available free of charge from GPs for all people in at risk groups, and from pharmacists for everyone in risk groups aged 18 years and over.
There has been a lot of speculation on the severity of the forthcoming flu season and the vaccine’s effectiveness, some of which is ill-informed. On this issue, Minister Harris said:
“It is too early at this stage to comment definitively on either the severity of the season or the effectiveness of the vaccine – as winter has just started, at present there is very little flu circulating in Europe and most people have only just received the vaccine.”
The Centres for Disease Control in the United States have indicated that it is 50-60% effective in preventing hospitalisation in older people and 80% effective in preventing death in the elderly, which is similar to previous years.
“My Department and the HSE are closely monitoring the evolving flu season and have ongoing contacts with international organisations such as the WHO and the ECDC.”
“We know that the level of influenza will certainly increase in Ireland and across Europe and once again I urge all of those working in the Health Services who are in contact with patients to get the vaccine. I strongly encourage people who are at risk to get the vaccine now as it can take up to two weeks to take effect. The vaccine will reduce the risk of getting flu as well as reducing hospitalisations and, most importantly reducing mortality from this infection.”
Minister Harris finished by saying:
“Winter can be a particularly challenging time for older and vulnerable people and it is vital that we do all we can to reduce the risks by encouraging those around us to Be Winter Ready.”