GPs 'charge' for flu jab as first patients struck down
Some GPs have been accused of wrongly charging medical card holders for the flu vaccine as scientists confirmed the virus has already arrived in Ireland.
The claims that some GPs in Limerick have charged medical card holders around €15 for the vaccine - which should be free - were made by constituents to Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan.
"I brought it to the attention of the Health Minister Simon Harris, who said they should not be charged," he added.
The HSE, which launched its flu campaign yesterday, was unable to provide a response last night to the claims.
However, Dr Cillian De Gascun, head of the National Virus Laboratory in UCD, confirmed the flu had already struck several people in Ireland, despite that fact winter had not yet brought its icy grip.
He said the laboratory had confirmed around 15 cases of the H3N2 strain that some might have picked up while abroad.
This strain can be a particular risk for older people and it infected a lot of people in Australia during its recent winter.
Dr De Gascun said, however, that it did not appear to have a very severe clinical effect in Australia in terms of serious illness or death.
He advised at-risk groups, including the elderly, to get the flu vaccine, which can offer protection although it is not foolproof.
Only half of people over 65 got the flu vaccine last winter and this number should rise this year.