Increase in students receiving flu vaccine

More DCU students received the influenza vaccine in 2017 than in previous years, according to the campus pharmacy.

Flu vaccinations are “higher than usual” and there is “much more awareness” according to the pharmacist. However, exact figures are unavailable due to data protection.

The pharmacy offers free flu vaccines for at-risk medical card holders. For at-risk people without a medical card it’s €15, while it’s €27.50 for everyone else. The vaccine will be available until April 2018.

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the virus, flu vaccines are seasonal. Every couple of years a new vaccine is developed to protect against the latest strain of the influenza virus.

This year, 17 people have been hospitalised due to influenza in Ireland, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The HPSC also reported no deaths yet due to the flu. However, Irish influenza rates doubled in January of this year.

The World Health Organisation recommends the vaccine for the elderly, pregnant people, children under five and those suffering from a chronic illness. In 2010, Ireland had less than 40 per cent of at-risk groups vaccinated.

The WHO aimed for 75 per cent of the elderly population to be vaccinated in 2010. Ireland failed to reach this target, instead having a little over 50 per cent covered.

Pregnant people suffer more extreme symptoms due to the effect of pregnancy on the body. These symptoms include: breathing issues, nausea, vomiting and even decreased or no baby movement. The flu vaccine is safe to receive throughout pregnancy according to the WHO.

The WHO also stresses the importance of vaccination for herd protection. Vaccines protect not only those vaccinated, but also the unvaccinated. Herd protection is when enough people are vaccinated that the chance of contracting the disease becomes negligible.

Influenza has a quick recovery rate, and the WHO recommends those suffering from usual symptoms to rest at home. Others suffering from more severe symptoms should seek the advice of their doctor and see if antiviral treatment is necessary.

Brendan Kelly Palenque

Image Credit: Sarah O’Neill