The HSE and Department of Health have announced details of the Swine Flu Vaccination Programme, which will commence on 2nd November. 

As very few people in Ireland have any immunity to Swine Flu, over the coming months, the HSE will offer a Swine Flu vaccine to the entire population. However, as the vaccine is being delivered in phases, we will start with the people who are most at risk from Swine Flu. The people most at risk, and being vaccinated first are:

Pregnant women (from 14 weeks pregnant to 6 weeks after giving birth) and anyone aged over 6 months and under 65 years who has:

  • Long-term Lung Disease (Alpha-1, COPD)
  • Long-term Heart Disease
  • Long-term Kidney Disease
  • Long-term Liver Disease
  • Long-term Neurological Disease (like MS, Cerebral Palsy)
  • Immunosuppression e.g. cancer treatment (and their household contacts)
  • Haemoglobinopathies
  • Diabetes
  • Morbid Obesity (check with your GP)

People aged 65 and over seem to have some immunity to Swine Flu so they are not in the most at-risk group and will be vaccinated at a later stage.

From Monday October 19th we will start delivering vaccine and supporting supplies to those GPs who have indicated their participation in the programme, and those supplies will build up to the required capacity over the following ten days. Over that period, some GPs will have limited supplies, so people in at-risk groups may wish to call their GP and enquire about availability. From the 30th October all GPs who are participating should have enough vaccine to begin vaccinating all their at-risk patients.

Then, on November 2nd, a national information campaign will commence, inviting those in the at-risk groups to make contact with their GP and make an appointment to receive their vaccine at specific clinics. If a patient's GP is not participating, alternative arrangements will be put in place.

Once this group has been completed, over the coming weeks and months we will move to the other groups, including healthcare workers (to provide protection to their vulnerable patients), children and older people, before offering vaccines to the wider population.  More detail on the timing of vaccination for these others groups will be announced at a later date and through the HSE’s information campaign.

Information for People with Chronic Illness

Getting the Swine Flu vaccine will protect you from Swine Flu and will also stop it spreading to people around you.

Swine Flu is a new flu virus that, for most people, has caused mild to moderate illness. However, some children, pregnant women and people with long-term illnesses have been hit harder by this flu, and some have died. Most people have no immunity to Swine Flu so, over the coming months, the HSE intends to offer a Swine Flu vaccine to everyone living in Ireland.

Who will get the vaccine first?

Everyone will be offered the Swine Flu vaccine, but we are giving the first supplies to those who are more at risk from Swine Flu.  Healthcare workers will also be vaccinated to protect themselves and their patients.

When get I get the vaccine? 

We will start distributing the vaccine over the next 2 weeks, and GPs will have enough supplies for everyone from November 1st 2009.

How does the Swine Flu vaccine work?

The vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies to the Swine Flu virus. When a person who has been vaccinated comes into contact with Swine Flu these antibodies attack the virus and prevent you getting the flu.

How safe is the Swine Flu vaccine?

We expect the Swine Flu vaccine to be as safe as the usual seasonal flu vaccine, which has been used for more than 60 years. Serious side effects are expected to be very rare and the Swine Flu vaccine cannot give you Swine Flu.  The vaccines are fully licensed and clinically tested.

Is it safe for pregnant women to be vaccinated?

Yes. The vaccine is safe to use in pregnancy and is recommended for all women from 14 weeks pregnant to 6 weeks after giving birth. Pregnant women under fourteen weeks pregnant who have an existing at-risk medical condition are also advised to get the vaccine.

Is there anyone who cannot get Swine Flu vaccine?

The vaccine should not be given to children under 6 months of age, and should be postponed if you have a temperature over 38ºC. Everyone in the at-risk groups aged over 6 months and under 65 years should get the vaccine – unless they have a severe allergy to eggs or other substances in the vaccine or have previously had Guillain Barré Syndrome. If you have any of these allergies or conditions you can discuss them and vaccination with your GP.

How long does it take the vaccine to work?

The vaccine starts to work within two weeks - our current advice is that to be fully protected from Swine Flu, people need a second dose of vaccine at least three weeks after the first dose.  However, it is hoped that more clinical information will emerge over the coming weeks confirming that one dose of vaccine will be enough to protect those aged 13 years and over.

What can I expect after vaccination?

The most common side effects will be mild and may include soreness, redness or swelling where the injection was given. Headache, fever, aches and tiredness may occur. Some people may have mild sweating and shivering as their immune system responds to the vaccine, but this is not Swine Flu and will pass after a day or so.

What if I don’t feel well after vaccination?

Take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have a fever or any pain where the injection was given. If you are pregnant, take paracetamol for fever, not ibuprofen or aspirin. Avoid clothes rubbing against the injection area and drink plenty of fluids. Remember if you or a child is unwell after getting a vaccine, they could be sick for some other reason – don’t assume it’s the flu vaccine and take medical advice if needed.

Do I have to pay for the vaccine?

The vaccine and its administration are free of charge for everyone. You may be asked for your PPSN (Personal Public Service Number) when you go to have your vaccine.

We would urge all our Alpha-1 patients to talk to your GP and make an appointment for a Swine Flu Vaccine over the coming weeks.

 

What is Alpha-1 Antitrypsin?
Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a vital protein produced by the liver to protect the lungs. It provides protection from the harmful effects of infections and inhaled irritants, particularly tobacco smoke. It can be easily measured by a simple blood test. 
What is Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency?
Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (Alpha-1) is a genetic condition which, after cystic fibrosis, is the commonest genetic disorder in Ireland. It severely affects more than 15,000 people, with another 250,000 carriers also at risk of lung and liver disease on the island of Ireland. It is a proven genetic risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
How Do I Get Tested?
The Alpha One Foundation provides free testing for Alpha-1 as part of a national screening programme which is funded by the HSE. For more details ring 01-8093871 or email alpha1@rcsi.ie.