Irish pharmacists have been delivering flu vaccines in Ireland since the winter of 2011/2012 and have helped increase uptake among people who had not previously had the flu vaccine.
The news was welcomed by pharmacists and healthy ageing campaigners who say community pharmacists are well-placed to reach older people and those with mobility issues.
Kathy Maher, President of the Irish Pharmacy Union said her organisation had campaigned for years for the right to give more vaccines. “Extending the vaccination service to include pneumococcal infection and shingles is an acknowledgement of the success of the current flu vaccination service delivered in pharmacies,” she said.
Ms Maher noted that 23% of patients vaccinated against flu by their pharmacist had not been vaccinated before and 83% of these were in ‘at risk’ categories for annual flu vaccination. Repeating this success could have an impact on hospitalisations from pneumonia and reduce the number of older people suffering painful shingles infections.
“We intend to build on this success in making these essential vaccinations more accessible to the public and making a difference when it comes to the uptake of these vital immunisations,” she said.
Dr Jane Barratt, Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing, said the news was an acknowledgement that services must meet the needs of those who use them. “We know older people often avail of services close to where they live. We ned to understand the population and their mobility and access challenges,” she told a meeting on adult immunisation at the European Public Health Conference in Milan.
Also speaking at the meeting, Professor Walter Ricciardi, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome, echoed this sentiment, adding that health professions should take a pragmatic approach to ensure patients of all ages are immunised.
“Doctors should not be scared of losing power. The real power of health professionals is to take advantage of scientific knowledge for the good of the population,” he said.
Italy is in the final stages of finalising a new immunisation schedule which is expected to reinforce the value of immunisations for people of all ages.