News & Media

Decision not to extend free flu jab to all citizens disappointing

18 May 2020

Statement by Alan Kelly TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Health and Disability Services

Labour Party Leader and Health spokesperson, Alan Kelly TD, has said the decision by the Government to not to extend the flu vaccine to all citizens for free is disappointing.

This comes as the Minister for Health has announced that children up to the age of 12 will now join those who are in at-risk groups in getting the flu vaccine for free.

Deputy Kelly said:

“The decision to only extend the free flu vaccination programme to children under the age of 13 is a short-sighted decision. I have been calling on the Government to make this vaccine free for all citizens since last year’s winter trolley crisis.

“While it is welcome that the Minister for Health has confirmed that those in at-risk groups will continue to get this vaccine for free, I believe that not offering the flu vaccine to all citizens for free is doing a disservice to those who are immunocompromised while we are in the middle of the global Covid-19 pandemic, which will still be an issue during flu season.

“It’s not enough to just provide this vaccine free of charge to children and those in at-risk groups, this year of all years we must provide it to all citizens for free if we want to try minimise the damage on our Emergency Departments created every year by the flu.

“I have been calling for the flu injection to be made available to all for free since last year as a way to help ease the pressure on other parts of our health system.

“We all know the pressure that the winter flu puts on our Emergency Departments and our ICUs. We cannot afford to have both the winter flu and Covid-19 rampant in our ICUs this November and December.

“I know from speaking to medical experts that the more people who receive the flu vaccine mean that we are less likely to see patients with the flu on specialist beds such as ICU beds, as well as regular in-patient facilities.

“Extending the flu vaccine to all for free could be the layer of protection needed for slowing the spread of the flu this year and could also free up our hospitals somewhat during the usually busy winter time.

“It’s not too late for the Minister to go beyond the steps he has already taken in making the vaccine available for free for primary school students and at-risk citizens and just extend the vaccine to all for free. It’s the right thing to do.”