Children and ‘at risk’ groups to receive flu vaccine free of charge

Resurgence of Covid-19 during flu season could present ‘significant challenge’

Children aged two to 12 years are to receive the flu vaccine free of charge, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Any person aged between six months and 69 years who is recognised as part of an “at risk” group will also receive the vaccine without charge, Mr Harris said on Monday.

People over 70 already receive the flu vaccine for free.

While the details of when the vaccine will become free for children are not yet available, the minister said plans for the expansion were under way and that further information would be released once arrangements are finalised.


Mr Harris warned that a resurgence of Covid-19 during the coming flu season could present a “significant challenge” to the delivery of healthcare services next winter.

“Flu is a potentially fatal illness and I want to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities are protected,” he said. “When the time comes, I will be strongly encouraging those from at-risk groups to get vaccinated to protect themselves and, in the case of health care workers, those they care for, from exposure to the flu.

“The flu vaccine is the only defence against the flu and is the best option for vulnerable people against the life-threatening complications of flu”.

Between 200 and 500 mostly older people die from flu in Ireland every winter, according to the HSE. Worldwide, around 646,000 people die from the flu virus each winter.

As of last week, 103 people had died from flu in Ireland during the 2019/2020 season, according to figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

The HSE strongly recommends people over 65, pregnant women and people with long-term health conditions such as chronic heart disease; liver disease; renal failure and cancer receive the winter flu vaccine.

People with chronic respiratory disease, chronic neurological disease, diabetes, Down syndrome, haemoglobinopathies or who have immunosuppresion due to disease or treatment or are morbidly obese are also advised to get the vaccine.

It is also recommended for nursing home residents, healthcare workers, carers and people in regular contact with pigs, poultry or waterfowl.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast