Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Questions (190, 191, 192)

Brian O'Shea

Question:

278 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if it is in order for a person in the at risk group for influenza to be charged a consultant fee where the vaccine is administered by a nurse attached to a family doctor’s practice and the person does not have a medical card; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32035/05]

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Brian O'Shea

Question:

279 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children her proposals to waive the consultation fee for patients who are in the at risk groups relating to influenza and who do not have a medical card on the basis that this consultation fee can prove to be a deterrent for those who would otherwise avail of the free vaccine; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32036/05]

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Brian O'Shea

Question:

280 Mr. O’Shea asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children if her views on whether the Health Service Executive leaflet on the influenza vaccine is misleading in that it indicates that the vaccine is free to all persons in the at risk groups when this is effectively only the case for medical card holders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32037/05]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Health)

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.