Cheaper flu jabs on way as chemists join plan
CHEAPER flu vaccines are promised from the autumn as moves get under way to allow pharmacists around the country to administer the jab.
Private patients who need the vaccine will have a choice of the pharmacist or GP under new changes expected to be announced by Health Minister James Reilly.
Instead of going to the doctor's surgery, patients will be able to go to a local chemist where the vaccine can be given in a special consultation area.
The vaccine for private patients costs around €12 to €13.
However, there is expected to be competition between pharmacists and GPs on the amount charged to administer the jab, which will be good news for patients.
Some GPs have been charging their normal consultation fee of €50 on top of the cost of the vaccine to private patients.
Boots chemists last year became the first pharmacy group to give the flu vaccine -- to private patients only -- under its own arrangements, charging an all-inclusive fee of €30.
Irish Pharmacy Union president Darragh O'Loughlin said Dr Reilly gave an assurance at a meeting yesterday that he would make the regulatory or legislative changes necessary in time to allow pharmacists give the vaccine from the autumn onwards.
"It will make it easier for people to get the vaccine and will mean that people who should be getting it are more likely to avail of it," he added.
After the meeting, Dr Reilly also confirmed he will reduce the €33 state fee currently paid to GPs to administer the vaccine to medical card holders.
GPs and pharmacists will be paid the same amount for medical card patients. But it is understood the fee could be reduced to around €15.
This would mean an overall saving of around €12m to €13m for the taxpayer.
However, if more people avail of the vaccine some of the savings will be wiped out.
The reduction in fees for giving the vaccine to medical card patients will be a bitter medicine for GPs to swallow and comes on top of a series of reductions in payments to doctors for state schemes.
Mr O'Loughlin said he could not say how much pharmacists will charge private patients but said the prices would vary in different chemists.
He said 800 pharmacists have already been trained in giving the vaccine.