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Flu vaccines ready this week

The government is hoping for a better take-up this year after a spike in flu-related deaths in 2011-2012

PEOPLE are being urged to get vaccinated against flu this winter after a disappointing drop in vaccinations and an increase in mortality last year.

This winter’s batch of vaccines, which are worked out each year in a bid to combat the most common viruses in circulation, will be available from Friday.

Vouchers are being sent out to more vulnerable groups, including over-65s and people with certain long-term illnesses, and, for the first time, obese people and pregnant women.

These should be taken to the pharmacy for a free dose of vaccine, which you then need to have injected by a nurse or doctor (with 100% reimbursement). People who do not have a voucher can buy vaccine for around €6.50 and will be reimbursed at normal rates for a visit to a doctor or nurse.

Last winter the government says only about half of people in at-risk groups were vaccinated – the level fell 26% since winter 2009-2010.

Nationally only 23% of all people aged over 15 were vaccinated, the same as eight years ago.

Flu is believed to have been responsible for a 13% mortality rise from February 6 to March 18 this year, with an extra 6,000 extra deaths compared to usual.

Experts say it is not possible to anticipate how severe a flu epidemic could be this winter or when it could start – it could be at any point between November and March, with the peak often, but not necessarily, coming at the start of the new year.

It is recommended that everyone get vaccinated, but those receiving the free vouchers are especially urged to make use of them. The vaccines only work for a few months so last year's will have no protective effect.

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