Health Minister Robin Swann.
THE flu vaccination programme in Northern Ireland is being further expanded to include those aged 50-64.
The expansion of the programme will help protect more people from flu and relieve further pressure on the health service. Those who will be aged 50-64 by March 31 can avail of the jab from over 350 community pharmacies or through their local GP practice.
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “We have seen an increased uptake in the flu vaccine programme this year and whilst this is very encouraging it remains extremely important that we take all necessary measures to help reduce the spread of flu.
“This is especially true given the very high levels of Covid-19 transmission in our communities. Reducing the pressure caused by seasonal flu will help protect our health service and save lives.”
Minister Swann continued: “This week has also seen GP practices begin the first phase in the Covid-19 population vaccination programme. Given the scale of the vaccination programme and the delivery schedule of the vaccines it will take time to vaccinate a substantial proportion of the population.
"I would ask people to remain patient, wait to be called and appreciate that GP practices will be delivering the significant Covid-19 programme alongside their normal service. Bearing this in mind, people in this group can also avail of the flu jab, through participating community pharmacies.”
Acknowledging the hard work of GP practices and pharmacies in delivering the flu programme to date, Minister Swann said: “I want to pay tribute to GP practice teams and community pharmacies who have worked throughout the pandemic to vaccinate those most vulnerable in our community.
"I also want to acknowledge the increased role pharmacy teams will play in vaccinating this additional group which will allow GP practices to concentrate on rolling out the Covid-19 vaccination programme.”
The current groups eligible for a free flu vaccination from their GP are now everyone aged 50 and over, pregnant women, those aged under 65 years of age in clinical 'at risk' groups, all children aged 2 to 4, primary school pupils and school children in year 8 who missed the school vaccination, household contacts of those who received shielding letters and frontline health and social care workers.
Free flu vaccination from pharmacies are for everyone aged 50 to 64, and frontline health and social care workers.