Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride, and Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Cathy Harrison, officially launched this year’s community pharmacy flu vaccination programme and received their flu jab in Belfast.

The seasonal influenza programme officially began on 1 October 2021, this year the programme is being expanded to help protect the most vulnerable people in our society and to relieve the winter pressures being faced by the health service during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The rollout of the seasonal flu vaccination programme in Northern Ireland will be supported by community pharmacies across the province who will be offering the vaccine to:

  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • All HSC workers

Speaking at Balmoral Pharmacy, the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Michael McBride, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place significant demands and pressures on our Health Service and we expect that there will be circulation of both flu and COVID-19 this winter, which will inevitably add further pressures on our already fragile health care system.

“As a result of the low flu activity last winter we expect reduced levels of population immunity against the virus this winter. In the situation where social mixing and social contact return towards pre-pandemic norms, it is expected that this winter will be the first winter in the UK when seasonal flu and other respiratory viruses such as RSV in children will circulate alongside COVID-19.

“Modelling indicates the 2021/22 flu season in the UK could be up to 50% larger than typically seen and it is also possible that the 2021 to 2022 influenza season will begin earlier than usual. Influenza vaccination is therefore an important priority this coming autumn to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with influenza, and to reduce hospitalisations during a time when the health service may also be managing significant winter outbreaks of COVID-19. Please keep following the public advice to reduce the transmission of flu and COVID-19, please get the vaccines and protect yourself, those that matter to you and the health service.”

The extension of the community pharmacy role in the 2021/22 flu vaccination programme will offer an additional route to vaccination for all HSC workers and for all those aged 50 and over, complimenting existing Occupational Health services and GP services, in order to maximise uptake of the flu vaccine.

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Mrs Cathy Harrison, said: “Community pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals and have continued to play a pivotal role delivering health services to communities in Northern Ireland during the pandemic.

“I am delighted to welcome this expanded role for community pharmacy teams, which builds on the success of last year’s community pharmacy flu vaccination service and the COVID-19 vaccination programme, which has seen over 143,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in community pharmacies all across Northern Ireland.

“This service will complement the already strong arrangements for delivering the flu vaccination programme in Trusts and general practice. And will use the skills of community pharmacy teams to provide much needed additional capacity across the healthcare system to deliver the largest flu vaccination programme ever at the same time as the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme and maintaining provision of other essential HSC services.”

Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy NI, Gerard Greene, said: Community pharmacies across Northern Ireland welcome the expansion of the Community Pharmacy flu vaccination service, it gives the public the option of getting their flu vaccine at a convenient, accessible location with a local pharmacist they know and trust.

“The threat of COVID-19 has made the need for vaccines even more crucial, and we strongly advise all those eligible to contact their local pharmacy team and get your winter flu vaccine. It is not just your health you protect when you are vaccinated, it is those most vulnerable in our society and the health service that is already under huge strain.”

Details of your nearest participating pharmacy can be found online

The public are reminded to be patient with community pharmacy staff as they work to set up clinics over the coming days.

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