I propose to take Questions Nos. 278 to 280, inclusive, together.
The vaccine is available free of charge from general practitioners to medical cardholders who are deemed to be at risk of serious illness as a result of contracting the disease. Persons in the at risk group who do not have a medical card can obtain the vaccine free of charge but the fee for administering the vaccine in such cases is a matter between the general practitioner and the patient. The at risk groups include persons aged 65 years or older, those with specific chronic illness such as chronic heart, lung or kidney disease, and those with a suppressed immune system. For persons in the at risk groups, complications arising from influenza such as pneumonia are common and can be fatal particularly in the elderly.
Private patients who request flu vaccine and are not in the at risk group receive a prescription from their general practitioner and purchase the vaccine from a pharmacy for administration by the general practitioner. All flu vaccinations should be given either by a general practitioner or under their supervision. It is the decision of the general practitioner to determine what administration fee will be charged when a person does not have a medical card. I expect the new GP visit cards to benefit, among others, older people on modest incomes who have not yet reached 70, at which age they are automatically entitled to a medical card. People in the 65 to 69 year age bracket, and who are therefore at risk from influenza, and holding a medical card or a GP visit card, will in future be able to receive the influenza vaccine free of charge from general practitioners who hold a contract under the general medical services scheme.