HIQA launches public consultation on switching to enhanced flu vaccines for those aged 65 years and older

Date of publication:

Today, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has launched a public consultation on its draft health technology assessment (HTA) on the use of an enhanced inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine in those aged 65 years and older, as part of the HSE’s Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme. 

HIQA agreed to undertake this assessment at the request of the Department of Health to inform the Minister for Health’s decision on whether enhanced flu vaccines should be funded by the HSE for those aged 65 years and older.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “Sometimes vaccine effectiveness can be suboptimal due to a mismatch between the content of the vaccine and the flu strains circulating that year. Vaccine effectiveness may also be reduced due to an ageing or compromised immune system.”

“Enhanced flu vaccines have been developed in an attempt to increase vaccine effectiveness.”

In Ireland, people aged 65 years and older can already receive the flu vaccine free of charge through the HSE Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme. Currently, a standard flu vaccine is used for this age group, with uptake of almost 77% among those aged 65 and older in the 2022-2023 flu season. Despite this, Irish data demonstrate that those aged 65 years and older are disproportionately affected by influenza, both in terms of morbidity and mortality, and that influenza can place a substantial burden on healthcare services every winter. In the 2022-2023 flu season, there were over 1,700 admissions to hospital for flu in this age group.

HIQA found that enhanced flu vaccines are safe and that a number of these vaccines are potentially more effective than standard vaccines. It also found that offering an enhanced vaccine, in place of a standard one, to those aged 65 years and older would be a good use of HSE resources. However, this finding was highly sensitive to the cost of the vaccines, making this a key consideration in any decision to fund enhanced flu vaccines and in price negotiations with vaccine manufacturers. 

HIQA has now published its draft findings and wants to get feedback from the public on the draft report. An online survey and details of how to take part in the consultation are available on HIQA’s website, including a form that can be posted to HIQA. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on 11 July 2024.

Following the public consultation, the report will be finalised and submitted as advice to the Minister for Health, and published on the HIQA website.

Read the draft report and take part in the consultation at www.hiqa.ie


Further information:

Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement 085 805 5202 / mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • HIQA has today published the following document:

    • Draft Health Technology Assessment of use of an enhanced inactivated influenza vaccine for those aged 65 years and older in the Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme.
  • Seasonal flu is characterised by respiratory and systemic symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, fever, malaise, myalgia, headache, sore throat and nasal congestion. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea are also common. For most people, flu symptoms typically resolve in three to seven days, but some individuals are at higher risk of severe disease including hospitalisation and death. Groups at higher risk include those with underlying medical conditions (such as chronic respiratory disease, chronic heart disease and diabetes), infants and young children, pregnant women and those aged 65 years or older. 
  • In terms of safety, flu vaccines are generally safe and well tolerated. Serious adverse events are rare with both standard and enhanced flu vaccines. Some reactions are more common with enhanced vaccines than standard vaccines, such as headache, pain at the injection site or fever. These side effects are usually mild and short-lived.
  • Information on receiving a flu vaccine can be found here