Winter flu vaccine to be made available free of charge to all adults over 50

Niac recommended extending eligibility to adults between 50 and 64

The winter flu vaccine will be available free of charge to all adults aged 50 and older, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced.

He said the extension of eligibility to adults between 50 and 64 was being taken on the advice of the national immunisation advisory committee (NIAC), to reduce the spread of the flu in the community.

“Given that Covid-19, influenza and other respiratory illnesses continue to co-circulate, this is an important measure to reduce the risk of flu compounding the winter pressures on the health system this season,” he said.

Dr Colm Henry, Chief Clinical Officer, HSE said: "Flu is highly infectious and can sometimes cause severe complications, such as bronchitis, pneumonia or encephalitis. While some complications are rare, they are still possible.

“Getting the flu vaccine is your best shot at protecting yourself and those around you this flu season. We have asked you to get your booster vaccine to protect against COVID-19, and now we’re pleased to be in a position to offer you a free flu vaccine as well. We have seen extraordinary levels of flu vaccine uptake with older people, and encourage the same enthusiasm in the over 50s age group.”

The vaccine will be available at participating GPs and pharmacies and can be given at the same time as a Covid-19 booster.

The ‘flu jab is now available to anyone who is 50 years or older, who is pregnant, who is aged between two and seven years, has Downs syndrome, who is immune compromised, who lives in a nursing home, or, who is a healthcare worker.

Anyone six months or older with a long-term health condition is also eligible. Such conditions include morbid obesity, chronic heart disease, including acute coronary syndrome, chronic liver disease, chronic renal failure, chronic respiratory disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, moderate or severe asthma or bronchopulmonary dysplasia.