Naughten slams HSE over flu vaccine shortage

Independent TD Denis Naughten has slammed the HSE over reports that only two-thirds of last year’s flu vaccine will be available by mid-October ahead of what is expected to be a worrying winter period for vulnerable groups.

He said: “While we all expected increased demand for the vaccine on a global scale, it is only now the HSE has admitted that not only will there be a delay but only part of the order needed for this winter will be available from the middle of October”.

Deputy Naughten was reacting to reports on Monday that a HSE spokesperson had said that by mid-October GPs and pharmacies “should have” just two-thirds of the amount of vaccine it used last year.

“This is short of what was actually delivered last year and well short of what it is expected will be needed to meet this year’s demand,” he said.

“If people in vulnerable groups get the flu, they are more likely to also get Covid-19 which, as a result, will be far more severe and place a huge additional burden on our health service.

“On to top of that the only way our health service can manage a surge in Covid-19 infection this winter is if we can rule out the possibility that the patient has flu, as the symptoms are so similar. This can only be achieved by a population-wide vaccination programme against the flu virus and this now under serious jeopardy as a result of these significant delays.

“We were lucky that when Covid-19 struck in March we were almost out of the flu season, but that will not be the case as we face another surge in coronavirus infection this autumn.

“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of the virus earlier this year we cannot allow a further wave of infection to cause chaos in our hospitals this winter under any circumstances,” Deputy Naughten concluded.